St. Patrick’s Day: How a Simple Irish...

St. Patrick’s Day: How a Simple Irish Tradition Turned into a Spectacle

by Rochelle C. Pangilinan
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

If you’ve dropped by the dollar store a week or two after Valentine’s Day, you probably saw a whole aisle of green hats, green jewelry, accessories with green four-leaf clover designs, and shirts that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” on display. And if you’ve lived in Canada for some time,  you know that this signals that the St. Patrick’s Day is soon to come.

St. Patrick’s Day is marked every year on March 17, which is the death anniversary of St. Patrick, who died in the fifth century.  Since the 16th century, the Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years as it falls during the Christian season of Lent.

In those days, Irish families would attend church service in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. While it was common to fast and/or abstain from the consumption of meat during the Lenten season, as well as to observe solemnity, these practices were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

White St. Patrick is highly regarded as the patron saint of Ireland, largely credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish, the celebration of his life and what he has done for Ireland translated differently outside of the country.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade

While the Irish have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by way of large feasts and lots of dancing, the first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade didn’t take place in Ireland. Rather, it took place in a Spanish colony in what is now St. Augustine, Florida on March 17, 1601. It was organized by Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.

The practice didn’t really take on until it was held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army – not in Ireland, but in New York City on March 17, 1762. The parade made the military members feel like home even though they were far from it. In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies joined forces to hold one official New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

When the Great Potato Famine struck Ireland in 1845, close to one million Irish Catholics turned to the United States to survive. But because of their religious beliefs and accents that were unfamiliar to Americans at the time, the immigrants found it difficult to find jobs and ended up taking jobs that Americans didn’t really want.

Then, when Irish Americans took to the streets on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate their heritage, they were portrayed as a cartoonish group of people in newspapers. Shortly thereafter, the Irish Americans realized they could turn things around by embracing a political power that they could use to full advantage. So they started to form a voting bloc which will later be known as the “green machine.” It wasn’t before long when the St. Patrick’s Day parade became a source of pride for Irish Americans more than ever and even became a must-attend event for political candidates.

Everything culminated in 1948 when then-President Harry S. Truman attended New York City‘s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Now, this is considered as the world‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants and 3 million spectators, lining up the 1.5 mile parade route, which typically takes five hours. Other cities like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Savannah hold big parades to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

In 2020 during the early onset of COVID-19, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC was one of the first major city events to be cancelled.

Misinterpreted Symbolisms

Despite the massive popularity of St. Patrick’s Day, many Irish people feel that the day is full of misinterpreted symbolisms.

For example, there is the myth that if you kiss the Blarney stone you become eloquent. This is something that the Irish don’t even do.

Another thing is green beer, which doesn’t exist in Ireland, as do the cabbage and corned beef.

Yet another one is the leprechauns, which is derived from the old term “leath bhrogan” which translates to shoemaker. In old Irish culture, they were a symbol of luck, thus the term “luck of the Irish.” How leprechauns became a stuff of horror movies though is anyone’s guess.

Most of these things have stemmed to please the tourists or pop culture fans.

Despite these, the Irish will always be proud of their heritage and will always be welcoming for others to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with them.







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