Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, honouring the death of St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and celebrating the presence of Irish Culture in America. It is not recognised as a national holiday, and as such businesses and schools are open during normal working hours.
Who was Saint Patrick?
Saint Patrick was born in 4th Century Britain and was kidnapped at the age of 16 years old and taken to Ireland. After managing to escape to France, where he was indoctrinated in Christianity, he returned to Ireland in 432 in order to convert its population into the religion. During his time, he is said to have built many monasteries, churches and schools, where he could preach his beliefs.
Legend has it that Saint Patrick repelled snakes away from Ireland, although it is likely that this is meant to represent him getting Ireland rid of pagans and non-believers. It is also said that he used the shamrock as a way to symbolize the Holy Trinity, thus why this is now such an important symbol in the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day.
Saint Patrick’s Day in America
During the 18th century many Irish people emigrated to the United States of America, bringing the celebrations and traditions of Saint Patrick’s Day with them, and today it is one of the most widely celebrated days in America. The first Saint Patrick’s Day festivities took place in Boston in 1737, and in New York in 1762. Celebrations only got bigger, and the cities with the largest number of Irish-American citizens started going all out in order to commemorate this day; notably, since 1962, in Chicago, the river is dyed green to mark the day.
In this way, Irish Patriotism kept rising in America, and societies dubbed as Irish Aid societies were created in order to celebrate the Irish Culture in the country, by organising parades and other events. For Saint Patrick’s Day, New York Irish Aid societies joined forces in 1848 in order to create the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, renowned for being the oldest in the world, and the biggest in the United States of America. It has 150,000 participants, and 3 million spectators get together on the streets annually to watch the parade, which lasts for five hours.
Many traditions have lasted over the years, in the celebration of Saint Patrick’s day. The most well-known one being the “wearing of the green” where people have to wear at least one article of green clothing. Those who choose not to wear green on this day are at risk of getting pinched by other people.
In America, the official food of Saint Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage, and alcohol and drinking are also a huge part of the day, with many people going to bars and pubs in order to celebrate with others. Pubs often host parties, having special offers for the day and using decorations such as shamrocks, snakes and leprechauns.