This holiday steeped in tradition has become celebrated far and wide and in many different ways.
You certainly don't have to be Irish to "get your Irish on" and celebrate on March 17th!
And if you happen to be in town here in New York City, you're in for a treat.
Our annual and historic St. Patrick's Day Parade is just one way to gear up in green, gather up your shamrock's and go with the luck o' the Irish!
Before you have a green beer or perhaps a scone, read on to learn about the importance of the historic and cultural symbols of Ireland that are celebrated on St. Patrick's Day!
In Ireland, St. Patrick's day is celebrated as a Catholic religious holiday on the date that Saint Patrick died in 461. Born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, Saint Patrick is credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland. Although not much is known about Saint Patrick's earlier life, his introduction to Ireland wasn't quite as celebratory.
At 16 years old he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and brought to Ireland as a slave, the exact location is not known but it is thought to be on the western coast of Ireland.
After a call from God through a dream, he summoned the courage to escape and returned to Britain where he studied to be a priest joining the Church of Auxerre in Gaul.
In 432 he was called back to Ireland, this time, of his own free will and as a Bishop to spread Catholicism to the people of Ireland who were practicing polytheism.
A very successful endeavor, Irish Catholics hold Saint Patrick in high esteem.
Although St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated with a parade in New York for the past 248 years, the first Irish Festival celebrating Irish cultural, in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day wasn't developed until 1996. In fact, for many years in Ireland St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated strictly as a religious holiday. Throughought various points in histroy it has been mandated that pubs and bars be closed on March 17th in Ireland. Although now celebrated as a secular holiday as well in Ireland, the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York is far older, even pre-dating the Declaration of Independence.
The first Saint Patrick's Day Parade in New York was held on March 17th, 1762. Unable to celebrate even in their home country, a group of Irish ex-patriots held New York's first St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The Irish solidiers were serving with the British Army occupying New York while still under British Colonial rule. The parade afforded the opportunity to speak "Irish", wear green and celebrate with traditional Irish music, which had all been banned back home. Until 1812, the parade was annually organized by the military until Irish fraternal and benefit societies took it on. According to Parade Secretary, Hilary Beirne, New York's Saint Patrick Day Parade is the largest parade in the world with an anticipated 150,000 to 250,000 marchers. While the military may not organize the parade any longer, the parade is still ceremoniously lead by a unit of soldiers. The parade begins at 44th street and fifth avenue and continues past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th street ending at the American Irish Historical Society at 86th street. Not for the short winded, the parade begins around 11:00 am and finishes at approximately 4:30 to 5:00 pm.
Let Loose after the Leprechauns!
Although not the first image conjured up by the word fairy, the Leprechaun is indeed an Irish fairy.
Approximately 2 feet tall (better be careful at the parade) Leprechauns dress as a shoemaker with a leather apron and hat. They are often unfriendly and live alone, however, they do have a tendency to hide pots of gold. It is said Leprechaun's can be tracked down by following the sound of the shoemaker's hammer. Treasure hunters beware, these seemingly slight elves are prone to trickery and can disappear in the blink of eye at the smallest distraction of their captors.
Show your Shamrocks!
Take that as you will but traditionally Shamrocks have been an important symbol for the Irish.
This gentle three leafed plant plays an important role in the literal and figurative trilogies celebrated throughout Irish culture and religion. Three is considered Ireland's magic number representing many trilogies, a few being: past, present and future; sky, earth and underworld; and for Catholics; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even Irish storytelling can be linked to the art of thrice, based on threefold repetition. It has also been said that Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. Originally the color associated with St. Patrick's day was blue but the influence of the shamrock lead to green gilded holiday we celebrate today.
Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!
Quite literally, everyone is invited to join the Irish and celebrate as an honorary Irishman!
Among some of the countries that celebrate St. Patrick's Day widely are Argentina, Canada, England, Japan, Montserrat, New Zealand, Australia, whew, South Korea and Switzerland.
All countries celebrate with the traditional green, shamrocks, celebration of Irish culture, and of course, parades.
We hope that however you choose to "get your Irish on" on this St. Patrick's Day you have a great time of it and maybe even catch a Leprechaun or two!