Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated annually on March 17th, in recognition and remembrance of St. Patrick’s death. The saint is known for his reverent devotion and tireless servitude in bringing Christianity to Ireland. Although he was born in Great Britain and kidnapped at the age of 16 to be sold into slavery – in Ireland – he returned to the country as a young adult with a fervent desire to spread the good news of the gospel of Christianity. Although Saint Patrick died in the fifth century, his death was not recognized as a religious holiday until the ninth or tenth century. And it wasn’t made an official public holiday by the government until 1903. However, religious celebrations began a few hundred years after his passing to joyously pay homage and tribute to the man who spent his life sharing Christianity with the wonderful people of Ireland.
One rather interesting bit of trivia is that the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade actually occurred in the United States by Irish soldiers in 1762 in New York City, not in Ireland! The first parade of record in Ireland to celebrate the day wasn’t until 1931 in Dublin! And in another uniquely curious bit of trivia, in 1848 several disparate Irish societies in New York decided to form one Saint Patrick’s Day Parade together in the city, thus becoming the world’s oldest civilian parade. It’s also the largest parade in the United States with over 3 million viewers and over 150,000 participants. Several United States rivers go green in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day – most notably the Chicago River and the Savannah River.
Saint Patrick’s Day holiday falls right in the middle of Lent; thus Irish families traditionally would celebrate by going to the church in the morning and then later joyously celebrate the saint and all he did to spread Christianity afterwards. Conveniently, and in honor of Saint Patrick, Lenten prohibitions against eating meat are waived so the people can feast, dance, and drink. The main celebratory meal was Irish bacon and cabbage.
What’s Saint Patrick’s Day without a little Guinness Beer? One might be surprised to know that in Ireland Saint Patrick’s Day was traditionally a religious holiday and up until the 1970’s pubs and bars were closed on this day in solemn reverence of the saint’s good deeds for the church. However, after the law was repealed in the 1970s and pubs were allowed to be open, it didn’t take long for Ireland to realize the tourism opportunity that existed in the secular celebrations. Erin Go Bragh!