It’s that time of the year again, where everyone suddenly has a little bit of Irish in them. As March begins, so to does everyone’s penchant to get into the green-inspired holiday spirit. While St. Patrick’s Day may now be more about parades, bar crawls, and Guinness, its roots are a little more humble.
Starting in the early 17th century, St. Patrick’s Day was originally a Christian feast day commemorating Saint Patrick’s death and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. However, modern day adaptations manifested in early days, as Lenten restrictions on certain food and drinking alcohol were put on hold for the day. Obviously, traditions nowadays take a little more advantage of this Lenten “cheat day.”
Before we get into what the US does for this special day, why don’t we take some time to understand who exactly we’re celebrating. Saint Patrick was alive during the 5th century and is regarded as the patron saint of Ireland. While born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave when he was 16. After escaping, he spread the word of Christianity to Ireland, where he’s credited with bringing this religion to Ireland. One interesting bit of lore about his life is that he’s credited with explaining the Holy Trinity, using the leaves of an Irish clover, aka a shamrock.
Back to the US: we saw the first parade take place March 17th, 1762 in NYC. After unifying several parades in 1848, NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is now the world’s oldest civilian parade and the US’ largest, with 150,000 participants per year. Another fun tradition that happens each year is Chicago’s annual dyeing of the Chicago River green. Every year, 40 pounds of green dye are poured into the river, giving it a vibrant and festive green glow.
Even if you’re not near Ireland or the US, there’s still a chance that you can participate. Places like Japan and Russia even celebrate in the annual festivities. No matter where you are, break out some green apparel and join in on the fun!