St Patrick’s Day in the USA

With a green river running through Chicago and an annual New York city parade of two million attendees, there’s no doubt that America likes to go hard or go home when it comes to St Patrick’s Day.  However, perhaps you’d like to know just why you’re frolicking around in a green shamrock suit so many miles from Ireland on March 17th? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about St. Patrick’s Day in the USA – its history and just why it is so dearly loved in the states.

St Patrick's Day Chicago

Who actually was ‘St Patrick’?

The man who became known as Saint Patrick was born in Britain, captured at the age of 16 and brought to Northern Ireland as a slave. He was sent to the Slemish Mountains to herd sheep. He remained there for 6 years, becoming devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. After escaping, St. Patrick entered the priesthood in France. In 432AD he was ordained a bishop and sent to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity. He is now the Patron Saint of Ireland.
On March 17th 461, St. Patrick died in Saul, Co.Down. Hence the date of St Patrick’s Day.

Why is it celebrated in America?

When Irish immigrants and soldiers arrived in the US back in the 18th century, they began to use this date to come together and celebrate their homeland. As more and more Irish immigrants fled to the US, the celebration grew. Now, it is a day where people of Irish descent can celebrate their heritage with pride.

When was the first parade?

America can claim the first official St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It is said that Boston city’s large community of Irish immigrants were the first to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in 1737. The first official parade took place in New York in 1762. Ireland’s first parade was held in Waterford in 1903.
Despite this, America did not invent St Patrick’s Day. It has always been recognised in Ireland but was a modest day of religious observance rather than a secular celebration of all things Irish.

Why is my bagel green?

Despite blue being the original colour associated with the Irish religious holiday of St Patrick’s Day back in the 7th Century, America turns green on March 17th. Rivers, clothes, beers and yes- even bagels. This is simply due to the fact that green is the colour most associated with Ireland- The Emerald Isle, the stripe in the Irish flag and the colour that represents the Catholics of Ireland- the original blue has been replaced since the 19th Century.

Green Bagels St. Patrick's Day USA

What’s the relevance of shamrocks and snakes?

Legend has it that St Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity when spreading the word of Christianity in Ireland. He used the three leaves of the one clover to demonstrate how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are separate elements of one entity. Another tale told about St Patrick is that he drove every snake out of Ireland into the sea where they drowned. As scientists insist that there were never any snakes in Ireland to banish, this particular legend could be translated as St Patrick’s success of removing the pagan influence from the island.

Where is the best St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America?

First up is Chicago– there’s dedication, then there’s dying an entire river green. Chicago holds three parades, one in Downtown, one in the Northwest Side and one in the South Side. Next in line is New York. The city’s grouping of bagpipers, marching bands and mounted police make up the largest parade in the USA. In third place is Savannah, Georgia. There was a surprisingly large Irish population at the time of this Southern city’s first parade in 1813. The parade is now known as one of the largest in America with green fountains and marching bands. San Francisco comes in fourth. Many Irish immigrants were drawn to this city thanks to the California Gold Rush of the mid 19th century. It now has a strong Irish heritage and hosts the largest parade west of the Mississippi! Lastly, with its thriving Irish population, it’s no surprise that Boston throws a vibrant St Patrick’s Day parade filled with colourful floats and Irish music.

Where should I go to celebrate in Ireland?

With Dublin thriving in festivities, day time entertainment, and a vibrant parade- there’s no doubt that spending St Patrick’s day in Ireland’s capital is a good choice. Cork also sees a colourful display parade across the city as well as Irish events and attractions. Galway isn’t the European capital of culture for no reason! This year’s parade is a great way to experience this unique culture for yourself. It will showcase local artists and community in a wonderful spectacle. Armagh is known to be the ‘Home of Saint Patrick’s Festival’ and promises a lively showcase of Irish culture, music and dance. Each year, Killarney in Co. Kerry pulls out all the stops so that there is something for everyone to enjoy during the festivities!

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