The holiday of St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated yearly on March 17th. This holiday which has a strong connection to Irish heritage has been celebrated as a religious feast for St. Patrick for over 1,000 years. Equal parts religious observance and celebration St. Patrick’s Day is well recognized and well known holiday with a long and unique history.
St. Patrick’s Day The Background
St. Patrick is the national saint of Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the island. Born in the Roman Province of Britain he original came to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. After escaping slavery he would leave and return to Ireland and upon his return bring Christianity to the Irish. Believing to have died on March 17th 461 many legends and folktales grew around St. Patrick. These tales include his use of the shamrock to explain the theological concept of the trinity and that he banished all snakes from Ireland by driving them into the sea.
Starting in the 9th or 10th century the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has observed a religious feast in honor of St. Patrick on the purported date of his death March 17th. Taking place during Lent the feast was notable for the waving of the prohibition on meat during Lent and bacon and cabbage became a food associated with the holiday.
St. Patrick’s Day Grows And Spreads
Despite its many centuries of celebration in Ireland the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States on March 17th 1762. Irish soldiers in the employ of the British Military celebrated their heritage by having a parade in New York City. Aside from music and celebration the parade also fostered a sense of camaraderie and shared heritage among Irish soldiers.
In the decades that followed Irish immigrants to America took great pride in their heritage and many Irish societies and clubs were formed. By 1848 the Irish societies of New York combined their individual parades into one larger parade. Continued to this day it is the largest parade in the United states with 150,000 parade members and roughly 3 million viewers every year. Several other major cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago also have their own parades of note.
One key aspect not to overlook is as Irish acceptance into American society grew so did the overarching importance of St. Patrick’s Day. What was once mocked in the press as a gathering of drunken buffoons soon became of importance to political candidates and civic leaders. President Harry S. Truman attended New York’s parade in 1948 a sign of the acceptance and respect the Irish had earned in greater American society.
St. Patrick’s Day Today
Today St. Patrick’s Day is a worldwide holiday celebrated by people from a multitude of different backgrounds. The holiday is especially popular in the United States, Canada, and Australia however, celebrations in places as far away as Japan and Russia exist. Aside from parades local events such as the green dyeing of the Chicago River are well known.
In its homeland of Ireland St. Patrick’s Day is still celebrated both as a religious holiday and a celebration of Irish culture. In 1995 Ireland started officially promoting the holiday as a worldwide tourist attraction to attract visitors and to celebrate Irish culture and history. Today the Ireland's St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin attracts one million visitors every year. This multi day celebration has parades, outdoor treasure, musical performances, and fireworks displays to entertain both tourist and locals alike.
Living in Stuyvesant Town, which is in the heart of Manhattan, places you close to many St Patrick's day events. Keep checking our blog for more updates on fun things to do for St Patrick's Day in NYC.