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Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 by

Who is St. Patrick?  Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Statue at St Patrick Church, Pittburgh, Photo by Joe Marinaro

 Most of us know when St. Patrick’s Day is, March 17th, but how did it become such a celebrated day? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is best known for banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Is this true or false? False, the island nation was never home to any snakes; This was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity.  March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day,  is his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. For thousands of years the Irish have observed this day by attending church in the morning and celebrating in the afternoon with dance, drinking and the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. This helped the Irish soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and other fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next 35 years many “Irish Aid” societies were formed, each group would have an annual parade. In 1848 several of the societies decided to unite their parade and form one large parade in New York City.

Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Nearly three million people line the 1.5 mile parade route, in New York City, which takes more than 5 hours. Many other city celebrate the day with parades, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah, involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants. And that is how St. Patrick’s Day became to be such a celebrated day in the United States.


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