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Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

todayMarch 21, 2022 8

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Why Do We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

By Hannah Dunbar


Happy Belated St. Patrick’s Day! Did you make sure to wear green on that day? If not, you might have been pinched already! Every year we celebrate this holiday, but why exactly do we celebrate it? Especially since it does not seem to be that important of a holiday nowadays. You don’t get work off. Other than wearing green and having cute themed decorations or food, there isn’t much to it. It feels like just another commercial holiday. I wanted to delve into the origins of this holiday.


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17th. It is a religious Irish Holiday that has been going on for 1,000 years now. This holiday falls during the Christian season of Lent- which is a period of penitential preparation for Easter. During Lent, people fast in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fastening in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.


Traditionally on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish families would attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lent prohibits the consumption of meat; however, this was waived during this holiday. People would dance, drink, and feast on a traditional staple of Irish cuisine of bacon and cabbage.


The holiday “St. Patrick’s Day” is named after the Patron Saint of Ireland, “Saint Patrick”. He was born to a Roman family in Britain, but he was kidnapped at the age of 16 to Ireland and served as a slave. Saint Patrick managed to escape back to Ireland. After escaping, he introduced the Irish to Christianity.


After his death, which is believed to be on March 17, 461, the mythology surrounding his life became more ingrained into Irish culture. One of the most well-known legends of Saint Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover- the shamrock.


The first day that St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated was around the 9th or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in America rather than Ireland.


Records show that a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The parade, and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration a year earlier, were organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.


A few centuries later, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military, marched in New York City on March 17, 1772 to honor the Irish patron saint. This caused a huge spark across America for St. Patrick’s day. For 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.


In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one official 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, which had about 150,000 participants.


Every year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. During 2020, the New York City parade was one of the first major city events to be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and it was again cancelled in 2021. The parade in New York and others around the country returned in 2022.


Up until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. In the year of 1845, the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland which resulted in 1 million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics immigrating to America to escape starvation. These Irish Catholics were discriminated against for their beliefs and accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish-Americans took to the streets on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.


Although the American Irish realized that their group was growing large in numbers which endowed them with a political power. They started to organize and speak up. They are known for their voting bloc, which is known as “the green machine.” This machine became an important swing for political hopefuls. It was then that the annual St. Patrick’s Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans.


In 1948, the 33rd U.S. President, Harry S. Truman, attended New York City‘s St. Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the country.

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