St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in America since the mid-18th century. With community rituals and commemorative ceremonies, such as parades and feasts, the identity of the Irish nationality was shaped into the Irish-American culture we are familiar with today. It is not a legal holiday, nor a serious holiday. It's just fun.
The shaping of the Irish-American culture had just as much to do with vengeance against British oppression and resistance during the 1800's as did the potato famine that had forced the relocation of so many Irish immigrants to our shores. Hard-working and with pride in their community, keeping their national identity alive was important.
The first recorded parade anywhere was in Boston in 1737. The parade was not Catholic in nature, though, because the majority of Irish immigrants to the colonies were Protestant. New York City held their first parade in 1762. Since 1962 Chicago has colored it's river green to mark the holiday.
St. Patrick of Ireland
St. Patrick's feast day has been celebrated in Ireland since the 9th and 10th centuries. St. Patrick is thought to have been born in Roman Britian in the late 4th century, and kidnapped and taken as a slave to Ireland at the age of 16. He escaped and later returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity.
It is believed that in explaining the meaning of the Holy Trinity, St. Patrick used the Irish shamrock. By the time of his death on March 17, 461, he had started many churches, monasteries and schools. Ireland came to celebrate his day with religious services and feasts.
Everyone is a little bit Irish
In America today, everyone wears a touch of green on St. Patrick's Day. Whether a shamrock or a ribbon, it is considered the proper thing to do. Corned beef and cabbage is served as well as "green" beer. And of course there are the parades.
More than 100 parades are held every year on St. Patrick's Day, with New York and Boston having the largest ones. In New York City, 150,000 to 250,000 marchers take part, and no floats or automobiles are allowed.
So this St. Patrick's Day, wear a bit of green and partake of some Irish stew or corned beef and cabbage. Become a part of the second largest immigrant population in this country, with over 34.7 million residents claiming Irish ancestry.