Most people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day held on March 17th every year. However, they might not be certainly aware about the true origin of the holiday, or even its true meaning.
Besides celebrating the Irish, and the color green, what is it really about and how did it evolved?
St. Patrick’s Day is named for Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick celebrated around the world with colors, parades and other festivals.
We wanted to take a look at the history and evolution of St. Patrick’s Day and hopefully give you some great talking points to enjoy at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
About Legend St. Patrick
Born in the late 4th century in Roman Britain, St. Patrick was kidnapped at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland for slavery.
Later, he escaped but returned about 432 to convert the Irish to Christianity.
St. Patrick was a patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.
Probably he is responsible in part for the Christianization of the Picts and Anglo Saxons.
St. Patrick is mostly known for his two work, the Confessio, a spiritual autobiography, and his letter to Coroticus, a denunciation of British mistreatment of Irish Christians.
In addition, many legends grew up around him. For instance, St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity.
St. Patrick also prayed for the provision of food for hungry sailors traveling by land through a desolate area.
By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had established monasteries, churches, and schools.
History of St. Patrick’s Day Parade
According to legend, the earliest celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America took place in Boston in 1737, when colonists of Irish decants marked the event with a modest parade.
In 1760s, when America still consisted of 13 British colonies, a group of Irishmen serving in the British army in New York City started the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day.
Later, during the 1800s, when Irish Catholic immigrants faced discrimination in Protestant-majority America, St. Patrick’s Day parades became an opportunity to show strength in numbers.
People marched to Irish music to help reconnect with their Irish ancestry and fellow serviceman.
Cities with larger number of Irish immigrants, who often wielded political power, staged the most extensive celebrations.
Since then, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been celebrated as a traditional event around the world.
Today, cities across the U.S. have longstanding traditions of St. Patrick’s Day parades.
The British Army in New York Marked St. Patrick’s Day
Like said, in late March 1766, the New York Mercury reported that St. Patrick’s Day had been marked.
Prior to the American Revolution, New York was generally garrisoned by British regiments.
And it has been noted that usually one or two regiments had strong Irish contingents.
Particularly, the two British infantry regiments, the 16th and 47th, were primarily Irish.
Officers of those regiments formed an organization known as the Society of the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick.
Hence, the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day parade was marked on March 17th from that day onwards.
The observers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade usually consisted of both military men and civilian.
Men along with the participants would drink to the King as well as to the prosperity of Ireland.
During the days of the Revolutionary War, the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be quite less.
However, later when the peace restored in a new nation, the celebrations resumed again.
Gone were the days when military men and civilians used to raise a toast on St. Patrick’s Day.
Began on March 17, 1784, the first St. Patrick’s Day after the British evacuated New York, the celebration were held differently.
St. Patrick’s Day was held under the auspices of a new organization without Tory connections, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
The day then was marked with music, no doubt again by fifes and drums, and a banquet held at Cape’s tavern in lower Manhattan.
Crowds Flocked to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
St. Patrick’s Day parade continued throughout the early 1800s, and the early parades would often consist of procession marching from parish churches in the city.
The number of Irish organizations supporting the St. Patrick’s Day parade also increased as the increase in Irish population in New York.
Many organizations all with their own civic and political orientation started to mark the day, reading old accounts of St. Patrick’s Day observations.
Not only that, on 1858, the competition became heated where there were actually two large and competing, St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York.
Later, in 1860s, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish immigrant group began organizing one massive St. Patrick’s Day parade.
In late March 1867, the New York newspapers were full of stories about violence that broke out at the parade in Manhattan.
Hence, following that fiasco, the focus in following years was on making the parades and celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day a respectable reflection on the growing political influence of the Irish in New York.
The Modern Parade
St. Patrick’s Day spread in popularity to Dublin and other American cities after it was held in Boston.
Now St. Patrick’s Day is popular in other countries as well including many in Europe and Asia.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday and has been since the beginning of the 20th century.
In the mid-1990s, Ireland began to use St. Patrick’s Day to promote tourism and cultural identity.
However, today St. Patrick’s Day isn’t much of a thought at all in the celebrations of the famous holiday.
Mostly people drink Guinness beer and enjoy dressing like Leprechauns.
Sure there is the traditional Celtic music, dancing and dress to provide some touches of authenticity.
However, those touches are largely absent in Ireland’s own St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
Although St. Patrick’s Day has become largely symbolic today, most people even don’t know why the day exist in the first place.
It has become just a great excuse to have some fun time spending with friends and family rather than working for a cause.