The arrival of St. Patrick’s Day brings many Americans fully clothed in green, eating corn beef and cabbage, drinking beer and throwing numerous parades. Even though St. Patrick’s Day is not an official American holiday it is widely recognized and celebrated by the American population. This is because of the vast Irish-American population across the United States. However, St. Patrick’s is viewed more as a religious and cultural holiday in Ireland.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America first started when Irish soldiers and immigrants came to the U.S., they began to use the March 17 holiday to celebrate their homeland.
“The first St. Patrick’s Day parades or celebrations go back to the 18th century, . . . and to the Irishmen within the British Army in America,” says Patrick Tally, professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
In the 19th century, millions of Irish immigrated to the U.S. Like the soldiers who came before them, they wanted to remember the country they’d left behind. So they start to use the day as one of celebration of their culture or heritage, causing the way Americans view and celebrate March 17th today.
In Chicago, Illinois; a part of the Chicago River is dyed green because of the strong Irish heritage present in Chicago. Each year the city hosts a parade downtown, which foreshadows the dyeing of the Chicago River. This event attracts thousands to the river bank to watch a boat release dye into the Chicago River.
On March 17th in New York City, New York, USA, the biggest St. Patrick’s day parade in the world is held. The parade is held along a 1.5 mile route along 5th Avenue in Manhattan, which is lead by the 69th Infantry Regiment. Typically 150,000 people participate in the march; this includes bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, immigrant societies and social and cultural clubs, while two million spectators line the streets.
In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of the saint. Therefore it is a religious holiday, and the people of the country get the day off. On this day the people of Ireland celebrate Saint Patrick’s successful missionary work in Ireland, and the successful spread of Christianity.
The transformation into a more secular and cultural celebration came about in the 20th century in order to help boost tourism to the country. The parades and celebrations only grew because of the expectations of tourists. If not for them, it would likely have remained a religious holiday instead of a cultural celebration. In fact, up until 1970 Irish law mandated that pubs be closed on St. Patrick’s Day.
The celebration of St. Paddy’s Day started in Ireland around the 19th century, when the majority of the population would attend a special mass.
However America has created it’s own twist on the Irish holiday and have made it more extravagant than originally was intended. Despite the fact St. Patrick’s Day is viewed and celebrated differently in Ireland and the United States; the date March 17th brings a day of cultural celebration or celebration of Irish heritage that brings countries together to celebrate a common cultural history.
By Tilia Lundberg