Irish heritage celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day
The Feast Day of St. Patrick is celebrated on March 17 which falls on Saturday this year. It is believed to be the day St. Patrick died in the fifth century. The patron saint of Ireland is not originally from Ireland.
He was kidnapped from Great Britain when he was 16 and forced into slavery on the Emerald Isle. He escaped and made his way home, only to return to Ireland later.
St. Patrick was called by God to convert the ancient people to Christianity. He reportedly baptized over 12,000 people in a single day near Killala and consecrated more than 350 bishops. The tale of St. Patrick banishing all the snakes from Ireland is an untrue fable. There were never any snakes in Ireland.
Shamrocks are not only the national flowers of Ireland, but are associated with St. Patrick because he used the three petal leaves of the shamrock to explain the Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The “wearing of the green” came about during a time when Ireland was being suppressed by England. They were denied their church and weren’t allowed to speak their own language. As a sign of solidarity and to express their true beliefs, they would wear shamrocks in their lapels. That later led to wearing green clothing, buttons, hats and such on St. Patrick’s Day.
Although St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, most of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations started in the United States, the home to over 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The first parade was held in New York in 1762 by Irish soldiers in the English Military. New York is not only home to the oldest, but also the largest parade with over 150,000 participants marching just over two miles. Over 150 bands participate in the event, but no vehicles or floats are allowed in the parade, which lasts five to six hours.
The Chicago River is turned green for a few hours on March 17 every year using 40 pounds of green dye.
Houston held its 53rd St. Patrick’s Day Parade last week on March 10.
Americans claiming Irish ancestry number more than 34.7 million. That is more than seven times the population in Ireland.
Over 83 percent of the American population says they wear green on St. Paddy’s Day. More than eight million St. Patrick’s Day cards are exchanged annually in the U.S.; while spending for St. Patrick’s Day tops $4 billion each year.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was considered strictly a religious holiday and pubs by law had to remain closed that day until 1970.
In 1995, Ireland began using St. Patrick’s Day to promote tourism in the country. Today, Ireland boasts a multi-day St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin filled with parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions and fireworks.