St Patrick Day Traditions

St Patrick Day Traditions, St. Patrick's Day is traditionally the celebration of the Catholic missionary to Ireland, St. Patrick, who ironically was actually Welsh by birth. Along with the miracle of converting all of Ireland to Christianity, St. Patrick is credited with cleansing Ireland of snakes.

March 17 is St. Patrick's religious feast day, believed to be the anniversary of his death. For thousands of years, the Irish have celebrated St. Patrick's Day as a holy day, attending church and engaging in feasts and dancing in the afternoon. These days, although Ireland still holds the day as a religious holiday, the Irish also take advantage of St. Patrick's tourist potential. Last year's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin attracted close to a million people, and involved a 5-day celebration complete with parades, concerts and fireworks.

Most of the St. Patrick's Day traditions we are familiar with actually originated in the United States. The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in New York City, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city on March 17, 1762. Today, New York's St. Patrick's Day parade is the oldest civilian parade in the world and, with over 150,000 participants, the largest in the United States. The 1 ½ mile parade route is packed with close to 3 million spectators.

Chicago also has its unique St. Patrick's Day tradition. Beginning in 1962, the Windy City celebrated St. Patrick's Day by turning the waters of the Chicago River green. In recent years, the river stays green for several hours on St. Patrick's Day.

U.S. school children are credited with the tradition to wear green on St. Patrick's Day, and to pinch those who don't. It is thought that the Irish themselves would not have started this tradition, as green is the color of the Irish flag when the country was not free. Wearing green is a widespread custom, now, however, as those with and without Irish heritage sport the color on St. Patrick's Day. It is also traditional to wear a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. Some stories say that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the meaning of the Trinity to the Irish. Regardless, the vibrant green plant is abundant in Ireland, and has become a symbol of Irish pride and nationality, especially in the States.

Although it has become tradition to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by drinking, it has not always been the case in Ireland itself. Only recently, since the 1970s, have pubs in Ireland been allowed to be open on the holiday. Still, in the U.S. drinking, and especially drinking anything green, has become a hallmark of the holiday. Traditional Irish foods, such as ham (or bacon in Britain) and cabbage, also favor the celebrations of St. Patrick's Day.
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