The Festival of Saint Patrick (commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day) serves both a cultural and a religious purpose. Held on March 17 every year, it is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and is also commemorated in the United States.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were first officially commemorated by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican community and the Lutheran Church as far back as the early 17th-century. The day celebrated the arrival of Christianity in Ireland through Saint Patrick and also the heritage and culture of the Irish people in general. Once Irish immigrants arrived in the United States, they also brought the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day with them.
It is important to note that St. Patrick’s Day was already being celebrated by the Irish in Europe in the 9th and 10th centuries. It was only in later times that he began to be known as the ‘Patron Saint of Ireland’.
Different celebrations and traditions mark this day for people across the world. Until the late 20th-century, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were a greater spectacle among the diasporas in the United States of America (U.S.A) than they were in Ireland itself. General celebrations on that day consist of public parades and festivals, Irish traditional music, and wearing green attire or shamrocks. Other activities include attending church and the lifting of Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking (just for the day).
Public parades began in the 18th-century in the U.S.A and had spread to Ireland by the 20th-century. Since 1962, Chicago has colored Chicago River green to mark the occasion. Recently, since 2010, several global landmarks have been lit green in commemoration of the day. The Sydney Opera House in Australia and Sky Tower in New Zealand were among the first landmarks to participate. St. Patrick’s Day parades are now held across the world, including Japan, Russia.
New York hosts the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world every year. Every year, nearly 150,000 people participate in the parade. The parade is led by the 69th Infantry Regiment. It attracts Irish immigrants and Americans of Irish ancestry from all walks of life. Non-Irish people also take place in the parade in large numbers. The first parade in the city was held back in 1762, also cited as the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world.
Chicago has a sizable Irish population. Every year, the city is home to various celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day. These include parades, the dyeing of the Chicago River and more. The river is dyed green on the day each year as thousands stand on both sides to witness the event. The ‘South Side Irish Parade’ is a famous Chicago parade on St. Patrick’s Day. The size of this parade has steadily grown over the years. It comprises of businesses, organizations and individuals with Irish heritage or an interest in Irish culture.
A 5th-century missionary of Romano-British origins, he was a bishop in Ireland. ‘Declaration’ (a Latin work written by Saint Patrick himself) provides most of the context regarding what is known about him. He was born into a wealthy family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest before him. He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland where he found God. He then traveled back, became a priest and returned to establish Christianity in Ireland. It was largely through his efforts that many churches, schools and monasteries were established in Ireland.
According to some accounts, the main color initially associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue. This changed in the 17th century, as green was used as a symbolic color in several of the revolutions that took place in Ireland. Ireland is nicknamed ‘the Emerald Island’ for its lush green landscape. Green is also one of the tricolors on the Irish flag. For many, the color green is a reminder of Ireland and all that is associated with it.
Traditionally, corned beef and cabbage are associated with the celebration. Other traditional dishes enjoyed on this day include Irish stew (containing lamb, mutton, or goat), bacon and cabbage, boxty (simply a potato pancake with an Irish twist), coddel (containing sausage, bacon and potato), colcannon (containing mashed potato, kale or cabbage, and butter) and (in specific places such as Ulster) soda farl. Modern times have relatively jazzed up the tradition cuisine to make way for dishes such as Shepherd’s pie and soda bread.
Originally an Irish festival (or Roman-Catholic feast day in Ireland), St. Patrick’s Day evolved into a secular holiday in the 1700s when Irish immigrants in the U.S. held the first parades.
Now, it is celebrated differently in many regions across the world.
In England, the Royal Family traditionally presents the Irish Guard with a bowl of shamrocks. This tradition was introduced by the Queen Alexandra (wife of Edward VII) in 1901. In London, annual St. Patrick’s Day parades have been taking place regularly since 2002. The parades takes place around Trafalgar Square.
In Russia, the first parade for St. Patrick’s Day took place in 1992 (less than thirty years ago). Since 1999, there has been an annual parade commemorating St. Patrick’s Day in Moscow. In 2017, the Russian Orthodox Church even added the feast day of Saint Patrick to its liturgical calendar (celebrated each year on 30 March).