St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in the Unites States in Boston in 1737. St. Patrick (birth name Maewyn), patron Saint of Ireland, was born in Wales AD 385. Maewyn grew up in a small Irish village and was raised by his Pagan family. At age 16 his village was attacked and raided and he was captured and sold into slavery. During his captivity, he learned about Christianity and grew to love the Christian God. Six years later, he escaped to a monastery where he remained for 12 years. During this period he began his full immersion into Christianity. He changed his name to Patrick and set out on a mission of converting other Irish pagans to Christianity. He was very successful and shortly thereafter, he was appointed as Ireland’s Bishop. Over the remaining 30 years of his life he traveled across Ireland establishing monasteries, churches and schools. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick’s Day.
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States on March 17th, 1762 when a group of Irish soldiers marched through New York City. In 1848, New York Irish aid societies combined their parades into one parade. Today, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is the largest in the United States and the oldest civilian parade the world over!
Popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions include eating a traditional Irish meal of Irish bacon or corned beef and cabbage, wearing green, listening to Irish folk music and downing large quantities of Irish beer and celebrating with revelers dressed as fairies and leprechauns. Every year, the Chicago River is dyed green! This tradition began in 1962 when Chicago pollution-control workers released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river as a way to celebrate the holiday. The most recognizable symbol of St. Paddy’s Day is the shamrock. According to legend, St. Patrick used the three-leafed clover to explain the holy Christian trinity to his followers.
From my early childhood years, St. Patrick’s Day was one of my favorite Holidays. For the record, my mother is Puerto Rican and my father is Black! Clearly I am not Irish, so my love of St. Patrick’s Day traditions and festivities did seem a bit odd. Growing up, I loved wearing green clothing, eating green colored cookies and drinking lemonade that was dyed green. Later on in my late teens and early adulthood, I attended St. Patrick’s Day parties dressed in a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt (with much success) and drank lots of green beer and Irish whiskey! It’s been 26 years since the last time I attended a St. Paddy’s Day party or drank green beer, and until recently I was clueless about the history of the holiday. This year I plan to celebrate by wearing a festive St. Patrick’s Day costume.