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Diving Into St. Patrick’s Day History

Since St. Patrick’s day is around the corner on Thursday, March 17. It is a good time to explore the history of the lucky holiday and how it came to be in the United States.

Most people nowadays would think St. Patrick’s day is a time for celebrations and parties, especially in America, but in Ireland, the day is also viewed as a more holy and religious holiday. It falls on the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend Church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. The holiday was meant to celebrate Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century. He is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle, which means he was one of the first successful Christian missionaries in a country or to a people.

Saint Patrick was born in Roman Britain, and was kidnapped and brought to Ireland to be sold as a slave at the age of 16. He managed to escape but eventually returned and has been credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people.

Patrick is said to have died on March 17, 461 A.D., which is why the holiday is celebrated on that date. As centuries went on, his life was assimilated more into Irish culture. A well known legend of St. Patrick is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of an Irish clover, also infamously called the shamrock.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade is celebrated not in Ireland, but in America. It is recorded that the parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony located where present day St. Augustine, Florida is. More than a century later, Irish soldiers in the English army marched in New York City on March 17, 1772, to honor St. Patrick. Awareness of St. Patrick’s day also sprung up in other cities around the United States such as Boston.

Over the next few decades, Irish populations and culture grew rapidly in the United States. Irish Aid societies were created such as the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick which were charities created to help poor Irish citizens and immigrants, since Irish immigrants were often poor and refused jobs just on the basis of them being Irish. They often faced major religious discrimination. The charity organizations threw annual parades celebrating Irish culture. In 1848, several New York Irish Aid Societies decided to unite their separate parades and form one big parade which would be the official New York City St. Patrick’s Day. Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade in the world, and the largest in the United States. There are usually around 150,000 participants in the parade and three million people line the streets to watch the parade. There are also multiple parades celebrating the holiday in other major cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia, Savannah, and Chicago.

St. Patrick’s Day is not just a day about celebration, but it is also a holiday started by people who were oppressed by their country, who decided to fight back and express their culture and their pride in it.

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