| | | | | | | | | St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick's Day
on March 17th
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by
the Irish and Irish at Heart in big cities and small towns alike with parades,
"wearing of the green," music and songs, Irish food and drink, and
activities for kids such as crafts, coloring and games. Its a time for fun.
folk ask the question 'Why is the Shamrock the National Flower of Ireland ?'
The reason is that St. Patrick used it to explain the Holy Trinity to the
pagans. Saint Patrick is believed to have been born in the late fourth century,
and is often confused with Palladius, a bishop who was sent by Pope Celestine
in 431 to be the first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.
Saint Patrick was the
patron saint and national apostle of Ireland
who is credited with bringing christianity to Ireland. Most of what is known
about him comes from his two works, the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography,
and his Epistola, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish christians.
Saint Patrick described himself as a "most humble-minded man, pouring
forth a continuous paean of thanks to his Maker for having chosen him as the
instrument whereby multitudes who had worshipped idols and unclean things had
become the people of God."
Saint Patrick is most known for
driving the snakes from Ireland.
It is true there are no snakes in Ireland, but there probably never
have been - the island was separated from the rest of the continent at the end
of the Ice Age. As in many old pagan religions, serpent symbols were common and
often worshipped. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic of
putting an end to that pagan practice. While not the first to bring
christianity to Ireland, it
is Patrick who is said to have encountered the Druids at Tara
and abolished their pagan rites. The story holds that he converted the warrior
chiefs and princes, baptizing them and thousands of their subjects in the
"Holy Wells" that still bear this name.
There are several accounts
of Saint Patrick's death. One says that Patrick died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland,
on March 17, 460 A.D.
His jawbone was preserved in a silver shrine and was often requested in times
of childbirth, epileptic fits, and as a preservative against the "evil
eye." Another account says that St. Patrick ended his days at Glastonbury, England and was buried there. The
Chapel of St. Patrick still exists as part of Glastonbury Abbey. Today, many
Catholic places of worship all around the world are named after St. Patrick,
including cathedrals in New York and Dublin city.
Why Saint Patrick's Day?
Saint Patrick's Day has come to be associated with everything Irish:
anything green and gold, shamrocks and luck. Most importantly, to those who
celebrate its intended meaning, St. Patrick's Day is a traditional day for
spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.
So, why is it celebrated on
March 17th? One theory is that that is the day that St. Patrick died. Since the
holiday began in Ireland,
it is believed that as the Irish spread out around the world, they took with
them their history and celebrations. The biggest observance of all is, of
course, in Ireland.
With the exception of restaurants and pubs, almost all businesses close on
March 17th. Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where
March 17th is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries
worldwide before the serious celebrating begins.
In American cities with a
large Irish population, St. Patrick's Day is a very big deal. Big cities and
small towns alike celebrate with parades, "wearing of the green,"
music and songs, Irish food and drink, and activities for kids such as crafts,
coloring and games. Some communities even go so far as to dye rivers or streams
One traditional icon of the day is
the shamrock. And this stems from a more bona fide Irish tale that tells how
Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Trinity. He used it in
his sermons to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all
exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom
of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
The shamrock, which was also called
the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a
sacred plant in ancient Ireland
because it symbolized the rebirth of spring.
By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish
nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the
use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to
wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their
displeasure with English rule.
, a typical Irish
The St. Patrick's Day custom came
in 1737. That was the first year St. Patrick's Day was publicly celebrated in
this country, in Boston.
people celebrate the day with parades, wearing of the green, and drinking beer.
One reason St. Patrick's Day might have become so popular is that it takes
place just a few days before the first day of spring. One might say it has
become the first green of spring.
The First St. Patrick's Day Parade
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place
but in the United States. Irish soldiers
serving in the English military marched through
New York City
on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the
parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow
Irishmen serving in the English army.
Over the next 35 years, Irish
patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of
so-called "Irish Aid" societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint
Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades
featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British
armies) and drums.
In 1848, several
Irish Aid societies decided to unite their
parades to form one New York City
St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today, that parade is
the world 's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000
Each year, nearly three million
people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more
than five hours. Boston,
, Philadelphia and Savannah
also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000
No Irish Need Apply
Up until the mid-19th century, most
Irish immigrants in America
were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor and
uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation.
Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American
Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When
Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's
Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as
drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to
realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had
yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as
the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political
hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength
for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political
candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York
City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish
whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find
acceptance in America.
Wearing Green Around the World
Today, St. Patrick's Day is
celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United
Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day
has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland,
In modern-day Ireland,
St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up
, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on
March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national
campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and
to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's
's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring
parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks shows.
The Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day
is famous for a somewhat peculiar annual event: dyeing the Chicago
River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city
pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and
realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the
holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the
river—enough to keep it green for a week!
Today, in order to minimize
environmental damage, only 40
pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only
several hours. Although Chicago historians claim
their city's idea for a river of green was original, some Savannah natives believe the idea originated
in their town. They point out that, in 1961, Savannah mayor Tom Woolley had plans for a
green river. Due to rough waters on March 17, the experiment failed, and Savannah never attempted
to dye its river again.
Did You Know?
More than 100 St. Patrick's Day
parades are held across the United States;
New York City and Boston are home to the largest celebrations.
St. Patrick's Day Celebration
beef and cabbage is a traditional St. Patrick's Day dish. In 2009, roughly 26.1
billion pounds of beef and 2.3 billion pounds of cabbage were produced in the United States.
soda bread gets its name and distinctive character from the use of baking soda
rather than yeast as a leavening agent.
green chrysanthemums are often requested for St. Patrick's Day parades and
St Patrick's Day Flag
of Shrine of St. Patrick's Bell.
Illustration from book, Historic ornament : treatise on decorative art and
architectural ornament, vol.2 by James Ward (1851 - 1924)
St. Patrick's Day Parade
first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in the United
States on March 17, 1762, when Irish soldiers serving in
the English military marched through
New York City
than 100 St.
Patrick's Day parades are held across the United States. New
York City and Boston
are home to the largest celebrations.
annual New York City St. Patrick's Day parade, participants march up 5th Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street. More
than 150,000 people take part in the event, which does not allow automobiles or
Places to Spend St. Patrick's Day
are four places in the United States named after the shamrock, the floral
emblem of Ireland: Mount Gay-Shamrock, WV; Shamrock, TX; Shamrock
Lakes, IN; and
U.S. towns share the name of Ireland's capital, Dublin. With 44,541 residents, Dublin, CA, is the
largest of the nice, followed by Dublin,
OH, with 39,310.
towns with the luck of the Irish include Emerald Isle,
Music is often associated with
St. Patrick's Day—and Irish culture in general. From
ancient days of the Celts, music has always been an important part of Irish
life. The Celts had an oral culture, where religion, legend and history were
passed from one generation to the next by way of stories and songs. After being
conquered by the English, and forbidden to speak their own language, the Irish,
like other oppressed peoples, turned to music to help them remember important
events and hold on to their heritage and history. As it often stirred emotion
and helped to galvanize people, music was outlawed by the English. During her
I even decreed that all artists and
pipers were to be arrested and hanged on the spot.
Today, traditional Irish bands like
The Chieftains, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem are gaining worldwide
popularity. Their music is produced with instruments that have been used for
centuries, including the fiddle, the uilleann pipes (a sort of elaborate
bagpipe), the tin whistle (a sort of flute that is actually made of
nickel-silver, brass or aluminum) and the bodhran (an ancient type of framedrum
that was traditionally used in warfare rather than music).
It has long been recounted that,
during his mission in Ireland,
St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick), and
with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland.
In fact, the island nation was never
home to any snakes. The "banishing of the snakes" was really a
metaphor for the eradication of
ideology from Ireland
and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick's arrival, Ireland
was completely Christianized.
Each year, thousands of Irish
Americans gather with their loved ones on
St. Patrick's Day
to share a "traditional" meal of
corned beef and cabbage.
Though cabbage has long been an
Irish food, corned beef only began to be associated with St. Patrick's Day at
the turn of the century.
Irish immigrants living on
New York City
's Lower East Side
substituted corned beef for their traditional dish of Irish bacon to save
money. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.
The original Irish name for these
figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied
Belief in leprechauns probably
stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their
magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were
cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though
only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their
trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Leprechauns had nothing to do
with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day.
released a film called Darby O'Gill
& the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of
leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful,
friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved
into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland