St. Patrick’s Day

On this popular holiday, it is common for those taking part in public celebrations and festivities to agree that “Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day”. With over 100 parades around the country, America is known to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with great pomp and pageantry. Leprechaun and shamrock themed décor appear all over, and everyone dons their most festive green attire to avoid those famed leprechaun pinches. But who was St. Patrick, and how did this festive holiday truly come about? Taking a look at the origins of St. Patrick’s Day may actually surprise you!

St. Patrick, the Priest

Ironically, St. Patrick was not originally from Ireland. Born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, he eventually made a name for himself in Ireland as a missionary and preached Christianity to the locals. His work was instrumental in converting the inhabitants of Ireland to Christianity, and even today, is recognized as one of the patron saints of Ireland.

The Origin of St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations

The 17th of March, widely celebrated around the world as St. Patrick’s Day, is the day that the patron saint of Ireland is believed to have died. Nearly five centuries later, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland made this day a religious holiday, which allowed people to take the day off to attend service in the morning and celebrate afterward. Over the years, the day became a national holiday, and the celebrations began to be associated with Irish culture and identity. The color green, representing the greenery of the “Emerald Isle,” eventually replaced the color blue, which was traditionally used in early celebrations of the day. Soon after, the shamrock, a popular symbol in Irish history, also became associated with the holiday. Though the shamrock has always been sacred to the Irish as a sign of spring, Irish folklore would eventually tie it back to St. Patrick as a symbol he used to represent the Holy Trinity.

Paddy’s Day Celebrations in America

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America was a very small one as Irish soldiers serving in the English army marched through New York City. The celebrations grew in size and popularity after the arrival of over a million Irish immigrants to the United States during the Potato Famine in Ireland. As the number and strength of the Irish population increased, so did national recognition of the holiday. Though St. Partick’s Day is not a national holiday, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm in various forms throughout the country by Irish and non-Irish citizens alike.

Parades are one of the most common ways of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, with New York City’s festivities being the largest in America. At these public celebrations the color green is used in just about everything - clothing, face paint, hair dye, décor and food. The city of Chicago also has a unique tradition of dying the Chicago River green every year to celebrate the festival. Generally, the sharing of Irish food, songs and dance are also popular means of celebrating Irish culture and tradition.

St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations around the World

Ireland uses the holiday to promote tourism and an awareness of the country’s culture. Naturally, these celebrations are the biggest in the world, spanning five days and including cultural performances, concerts, competitions, parades and conferences. The festival is also widely celebrated in countries with a large number of Irish immigrants, including Canada, Australia and Britain.

As a festival that commemorates Irish culture and tradition, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish men and women around the world as a way to honor and connect with their roots.

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