By Lorie Ham
Do you have anything green in your closet? If not, be prepared to be pinched, as St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us again! Many Americans think of St. Patrick’s Day as a day to wear green, drink beer, eat Irish food, and party. But have you ever wondered where this holiday and its traditions came from?
March 17 is the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick. According to History.com, the Irish have observed this as a religious holiday for over one thousand years. The holiday falls during the season of Lent and Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. On that day, Lenten prohibitions against eating meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Saint Patrick lived during the fifth century and is the patron saint of Ireland, and its national apostle. He is credited with bringing Christianity to its people. According to History.com, after his death, the mythology surrounding his life became even more ingrained in the Irish culture. One legend states that he explained the Holy Trinity by using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.
Most of what we think of as St. Patrick’s Day traditions however started in America. According to an article on Irish Central, in 2017 it was uncovered that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in Florida in 1603. Until that discovery, Boston and New York laid claim to the first parades in 1737 and 1762 respectively. Ireland didn’t have their first parade until 1903. When Irish immigrants arrived in the US, pork was too expensive, so corned beef took its place as part of the traditional meal for the day.
As to wearing green, according to an article in USA Today, Irish Americans would wear green as a reminder that they were nationalists first. Green is one of the primary colors of the Irish flag. An article on National Geographic Kids states that the idea of wearing green so you won’t get pinched is a tradition that is tied to folklore which says wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, who like to pinch anyone they can see.
Another interesting American tradition in Chicago is the dying of the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day. This began in 1962. According to an article in Parade, city workers originally used green dye to trace unauthorized sewages, and then realized it looked very festive!
What started in the United States as a way for Irish immigrants to celebrate where they came from has turned into a day celebrated even by those without Irish heritage. By the end of the 19th century, St. Patrick’s Day was being observed on the streets of major Irish cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York, as well as in other cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco, and Savannah. By the 20th century, celebrating the day was so common that St. Patrick’s Day became a marketing bonanza.
Whether you are Irish or not, if you are planning on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and looking for some Irish recipes for your celebration, this article on Taste of Home has sixty recipes for you to check out!
Are you doing anything for St. Patrick’s Day? We would love for you to share it with us on our Facebook page! And don’t forget to wear green so the leprechauns can’t see you!