St. Patrick's Day (SPM-3)
St. Patrick: The Man, The Myth, The Legend
(Disclaimer: he, in fact, a man and not a myth)
St. Patricks Day was founded by a man named , who later became a saint and changed his name to the holy name of Saint Patrick after becoming a priest. Patrick was born towards the end of the fourth century to wealthy Christian parents. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped from his home in Roman Britain and taken to Ireland as a slave by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. He stayed in captivity for six years. During that time, he worked as an isolated shepherd. Alone and hopeless, Patrick turned back to his family's religion for comfort and became a devoted Christian.
After roughly six years in captivity, Partick managed to escape by walking nearly 200 miles from County Mayo, where it is believed he was held, to the Irish coast. According to his writings, the escape plan came to Patrick in his dreams. Then, a later dream apparently ordered Patrick to return Ireland after his escape in order to bring the people to faith. Because of this, he spend years of study to become a priest who’s final mission was to be sent to Ireland.
Symbolism of St. Patrick
During his teachings, it's believed that explained the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock. The people started wearing shamrocks to signify this on March 17th. This is relevant because the shamrock and its signature green later becomes one of the widespread symbols for St. Patrick's Day. That is why a popular modern custom is to wear green on that holiday.
After his death, he was largely forgotten. Until, however, mythology and legends grew and he became recognized as the official saint of Ireland. One legend that made him so popular was that he had something to do which driving all the snakes out of Ireland. This cannot be true because Ireland didn’t even have any snakes to begin with. Because of the cold water surrounding the island, it would have been impossible for any snakes to migrate there. It is more likely that parents used that story to tell their children, using a metaphor of snakes as Patrick driving out Paganism. The official holiday celebrating him is on March 17th, the anniversary of his death.
It wasn’t until 1798, the year of the Irish Rebellion, that the color green became officially associated with the day, Casey says. Up until the rebellion, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue, as it was featured both in the royal court and on ancient Irish flags. But as the British wore red, the Irish chose to wear green, and they sang the song “The Wearing of the Green” during the rebellion, cementing the color’s relevance in Irish history.
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Following the death of St. Patrick in 461, the people of Ireland acknowledged the Roman Catholic feast, but didn’t take part. The first people to celebrate it was the people of New York City in 1762. There was a parade held by Irish soldiers in the military and involved them all marching the streets. The music and celebration helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots.
At first, local groups of people celebrating Irish patriotism would gather and have their own celebrations. Then, in 1848, several of these societies decided to unite their parties into one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, the parade is known as the and largest in the United States celebrating that holiday. Each year, over 150,000 people participate in the parade and nearly 3 million people line route to watch. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades.
How the Parade Impacted America
Like many cultural celebrations at that time, America was introduced to St. Patrick’s Day after the 1845 Irish Potato Famine hit, sending close to 1 million lower class Irish Catholics on to American soil. However, because of their lower class status, their festivities were not accepted and often looked down upon by the American Protestants. St. Patricks Day was portrayed in the media as a drunken, violent gathering of the uneducated and poor.
However, as the numbers of Irish Americans grew, so did the celebration. They soon started to organize and be more open about their heritage. Their political group became known as the “green machine” and later became very important to the social aspect in America. There are now 34.7 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry. This number is more than seven times the population of Ireland itself.
The parade was sort of a way for the people of Irish heritage to display their power and show the others that they were part of the city too and were there to stay.
Modern St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
Today, celebrations are held by people of many different cultural backgrounds. St. Patrick's Day festivals or parades are also held throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore and Russia. More than 100 parades are held across the United States in honor of Irish heritage.
Many new traditions are associated with this holiday. Corned 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. This food is associated with St. Patrick’s Day because, when the Irish first came to America, they didn’t have much money for food. So, on special days, they would try to buy the cheapest meat and pair it with some sort of side dish. At the time, the best choices happened to be corned beef and cabbage.
Since the holiday falls right before Lent, some Irish-Americans may be required to sustain from drinking leading up to Easter. However, they are allowed to break this fast during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. This is one cause for the day’s association with drinking heavily.
Celebrations Around the World
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston bring over 600,000 visitors to the city, which has a large Irish-American community. The city has one of the largest parades, which many veterans take part in, and events are held in the large number of Irish pubs in the city. The Irish Cultural Centre holds a celebration, and many events feature Irish food, such as corned beef.
New York City is the place of the oldest civilian parade, which boats over 150,000 participants. This may include veterans along with firefighters, policemen, and cultural clubs. It is led New York’s 69th infantry regiment. Another city in New York state, Pearl river, has the second largest parade in the state with crowds of over 100,000. In Buffalo, there are even two St. Patrick’s parades.
In Pennsylvania, the city’s parade is one of the oldest and largest. Since 1862, it has been one of the most popular, with current celebrations attracting around 150,000. Chicago dyes the Chicago River green and holds the South Side Parade, which has actually had to be scaled back in recent years due to the celebration growing too large for the Irish groups that hold the parade. New Orleans was the largest point of immigration for the Irish. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are typically held at the community or neighborhood level.
The Ireland celebration has a more religious nature, as it is considered a religious feast day. While it was made an official holiday in 1903, the first Saint Patrick’s Festival was held in 1996. During these recent years, the even has become more cultural and consists of many celebrations in the streets.