Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s

Food, Lent and St. Patrick’s Day

Archival Moment

March 17

(St. Patrick’s Day and the Lenten Fast)

Foods fro the Lenten Season Advertisement, Evening Telegram

Foods fro the Lenten Season
Advertisement, Evening Telegram

St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 has long been considered a significant date on the calendar of Irish Newfoundlanders, in fact on St. Patrick’s Day, all Newfoundlanders lay claim to some smidgeon of Irishness. The Irish in Newfoundland have for hundreds of years celebrated their patron saint with parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting.

St. Patrick’s Day, falling as it does during the fasting season of Lent has proven to be inconvenient, it has also proven to be a source of theological confusion.

Those who follow the Christian calendar and fast or abstain during the Lenten Season (Wednesday, February 14 and ends on  Thursday March 29)  can relax,  bishops throughout the world, especially in dioceses with large Irish populations have customarily granted a special dispensation from the law of abstinence and fasting on St. Patrick’s Day. In the United States, in the resent past, at least 60 of the nearly 200 dioceses (most with large Irish populations) provide such dispensations.

So ingrained in Newfoundland food culture was the idea of the “Lenten Diet” that there was a time during the Lenten Season when grocery stores in their advertising in the local newspapers boldly bragged in their advertisements that they carried “Lenten Diet” products.

In the local  St. John’s newspaper, Evening Telegram, on March 18, 1914 , Bishop Sons and Company Limited, Grocery Department stated in their advertising that their “‘Lenten Diet’ products included Salmon, Lobster, Cod Tongues, White Bait, Royans,  and a large selection of other fish products.”

The Lenten Diet, The Evening Telegram

The Lenten Diet,
The Evening Telegram

E.P. Eagan a competitor of Bishops and Sons at his Duckworth Street and Queens Road stores in St. John’s boasted in his advertising in The Telegram, March 16, 1914   that he carried “Foods that are popular during the Lenten Season.”

It was in this cultural milieu that it would have been difficult to consider a good meal of Irish bacon and cabbage, the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal without an approving nod from the local bishop.

Irish bacon and cabbage, consists of unsliced back bacon boiled with cabbage and potatoes. Sometimes other vegetables such as turnips, onions and carrots are also added. Historically, this dish was common fare in Irish homes as the ingredients were readily available as many families grew their own vegetables and reared their own pigs. (As it was in Newfoundland.) In the mid-to-late 19th century, Irish immigrants to the United States began substituting corned beef for bacon when making the dish, hence creating corned beef and cabbage.

It is not likely that you will find a restaurant menu that will feature a “Lenten Diet’ and even more unlikely that our local newspaper will offer a ‘Lenten Diet’ column,  best stick to the fish.

On St. Patrick’s Day, break the ‘Lenten Fast’   it is all about the parades, dancing, drinking, and feasting!

Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms take some time to see: Talamh an Éisc – The Fishing Ground, an exhibit at The Rooms, which introduces the Irish peoples who have been in Newfoundland and Labrador since the late 1600s, the exhibit explores the communities they built and celebrates the contributions they made to life here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Great day for hauling stone

Archival Moment 

February 7, 1864

St. Patrick's Church, St. John's.

St. Patrick’s Church, St. John’s.

On February 7, 1864, work officially began on St. Patrick’s Church, Patrick Street, St. John’s with the hauling of the stone taken from the Southside Hills (at Cudahy’s (also Cuddihy) Quarry) in St. John’s.  The first sleigh of stone was delivered to the site  by the Cathedral (now Basilica)  Fire Brigade.

Typically, in the construction of stone buildings, the stone was hauled during the winter, when the road surfaces were packed with snow allowing the horses to pull the very heavy loads.

It is estimated that 600 tonnes of stone was hauled from Cudahy’s Quarry  by volunteer labor for the construction of the new church.

Construction continued as funds and materials permitted.

Twenty five years later, St. Patrick’s Church was consecrated on August 28, 1881.

The hauling of the stone on sleighs from the South Side Hills to the site of the future St. Patrick’s Church resulted in the death of one child. Children would grab onto the huge mounds of stone on the sleighs as they traveled through the streets. One child was crushed when a stone slab slid from the sleigh as the child tried to grab on for a joy ride.

Most Reverend John Hughes, Archbishop of New York and Bishop John Thomas Mullock of St. John’s laid the cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Church on September 10, 1855.  The church was designed in the late Gothic Revival, also termed Neo-Gothic, style by J.J. McCarthy, a prominent Irish architect, and was built by T. O’Brien, local architect and mason.

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: [Collection MG 956] Provincial Archives Special Items collection. Item consists of an address from the parishioners of St. Patrick’s, St. John’s, to their pastor for services rendered over twenty five years. 39 x 53 cm; watercolour floral border and illustration of St. Patrick’s church at bottom centre; main text hand-lettered with watercolour.

Recommended Reading: J.J.McCarthy and the Gothic Revival in Ireland by Jeanne Sheehy., June 1977. Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.