The History of St. Patrick’s Day

The History of St. Patrick's Day

While trying to think of something to write about for this new deadline I remembered that St. Patrick’s day is quickly approaching us in about a week! I really know nothing about St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided I would do a little research and find out how this holiday came about. Every year on March 17th St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated, which is the day St. Patrick passed away. The Irish have recognized St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday for over one thousand years! This holiday falls on Lent which is a Christian observation where participants are not allowed to eat meat. Irish families attend church services in the morning and then start their celebrations in the afternoon. They celebrated by drinking, dancing, and eating Irish bacon since all Lent traditions are not recognized for the night.

Saint Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland in the fifth century. He was also Ireland’s national apostle. Saint Patrick was originally from Roman Britain, but at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. He eventually escaped, but later returned and brought the religion of Christianity with him. After St. Patrick’s death he became incorporated more in Irish culture. One example is how he explained the Holy Trinity to others using a three-leaf clover. 

Since the ninth century, Ireland has recognized March 17th as St. Patrick’s Day. However, the first parade dedicated to St. Patrick did not happen in Ireland, but in the United States. On March 17th, 1762 Irish soldiers who were fighting in the war for the English military marched the streets of New York City with music that connected them to their roots back in Ireland.

In the next thirty-five years after this, American immigrants from Ireland formed “Irish Aid” groups that would set up St. Patrick’s Day parades. In these parades, bagpipes and drums were often played. In 1848 a bunch of Irish Aids in New York decided to combine their parades into one big parade, and officially named it the “New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” This parade is the oldest civilian parade in the United States and is also one of the largest with 150,000 participants! About three million people line up the mile and a half parade route, and the actual parade takes five hours long! Chicago, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Boston also have St. Patrick’s Day parades. 

In 1845 when more immigrants from Ireland started to come to the United States due to the potato famine they were discriminated against extremely. People found their religion and accents unfamiliar and back then unfamiliar meant bad. During St. Patrick’s Day the cartoons would describe them as drunk monkeys. Irish-American’s however found that if they formed their own voting block politicians would depend on them for a swing vote which meant they held more power, which led to people coming to more St. Patrick’s Day parades.

So, that’s that history behind Saint Patrick’s Day. Not the most interesting holiday, but it was still fun to dig around and learn about it!