St. Patty’s Day

By Jocelyn Donaldson

Friday, March 17th, will be a day painted in green, or I suppose white because of the snow. Anyway, the point is that it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Sure, we all know it has something to do with the Irish and the holiday is best celebrated buying a shamrock shake from McDonalds but to many, the holiday represents more. Why exactly is St. Patrick’s Day so important and where did the holiday even come from?

According to, St. Patrick was actually a person, and the holiday is celebrated annually on his birthday. Back in the fifth century, St. Patrick was a patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped from his home in Roman Britain and enslaved. St. Patrick escaped and is said to have brought Christianity to Ireland. After he died, the story of his life became deeply ingrained in Irish culture. Something that surprised me was how the clovers factored in. I thought they were used in celebrating St. Patrick’s day simply because of their color. However, there is a legend that St. Patrick used a shamrock, or and irish clover, to explain the Holy Trinity. This is why you see them all over the place on March 17th. The first parade to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day took place in New York City in 1762. Irish soldiers that were serving in the English military marched through the city while Irish music played. It helped the soldiers reconnect with their roots and each other. Thanks to the growing Irish patriotism and “Irish aid” societies, the parades kept up each year. Then in 1848, the groups decided to unite their parades to form one official parade. With over 150,000 participants and 3 million spectators, the parade is the oldest and largest in the United States. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Savannah also have parades, but scaled back somewhat. These parades weren’t always seen as a fun way to celebrate a holiday. When Irish immigrants first attempted to celebrate their heritage in the streets, the newspapers portrayed them as drunk and violent. Later, the parades became a show of strength with an undertone of politics. When Harry S. Truman attended a parade, it was a crowning moment for the Irish Americans. Other cities also have traditions. One of my favorite traditions is the one held in Chicago, or well the Chicago River. In 1962, city workers used dye to trace sewage pollution. This brought the idea to celebrate the holiday in a new, creative way. Green vegetable dye is dumped into the river to turn the river a vibrant green for a few hours.

However you celebrate-or possibly don’t celebrate-St. Patrick’s Day, just remember it’s about more than the shakes and parades. Remember the Irish culture behind it and remember the pride they had in celebrating their heritage. Remember where this holiday comes from and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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