The Morning Brew: The origins of St. Patrick's Day
Saint Patrick's Day is irish, but also uniquely american
I once thought Saint Patrick's Day was mostly an American-made holiday, a great excuse to get plowed on a weekday or to eat regular food with green food coloring for no apparent reason other than the fact it's green.
I imagined the Irish rolling their eyes at their American cousins from across the pond. But the truth is, Saint Patrick's Day in Ireland looks a whole lot like it does in the United States, with the exception of one critical detail -- the Irish get the day off.
But even in Ireland Paddys Day, in its current form, is relatively new. From Irish Central:
The promotion of Paddy’s Day in Ireland truly began in 1995 when the Irish Government realized the potential tourism benefits of celebrating the day and the opportunities for the country to sell its culture and sights to the rest of the world.
This resulted in the creation of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and has amassed to the multi-day celebration that we now have in Dublin in which approximately one million people take part annually.
In year's past, the celebration was much tamer:
The typical Irish family celebration before the 70s and before the uplift of the ban on drinking was very different from the party atmosphere associated with the day now. As St. Patrick’s Day generally falls within the Christian season of Lent, Mass was attended in the morning with the afternoon set aside for celebrations. The Lenten prohibition against meat was lifted for the day and families sang and danced and celebrated during a time that is normally more somber on the Christian calendar.
The first Paddy's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but New York:
The evolution of St. Patrick’s Day into the ruckus it’s now associated with may, in fact, have been solely an Irish-American construct. Despite the fact that the feast day has been observed in Ireland since the 9th or 10th century, it was in New York City that the first parade took place when in 1762 Irish soldiers serving with the English military marched through Manhattan to a local tavern.
Patriotism amongst Irish immigrants in America continued to grow with the New York Irish Aid societies holding the first official parade in 1848 - the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States. The first parade in the Irish Free State did not take place until 1931.
So there it is. Modern Paddy's Day is uniquely American, but also pays homage to the home country so many Americans came from. Even better, this year it falls on a Saturday. As the Irish would say, "Sláinte!"