St. Patrick's Day parades, green beer, and corned beef are all American traditions dating back to the 1960s. Surprised?
St. Patrick has been revered since the fifth century for bringing Christianity to the common people in Ireland, and March 17 is his holy Saint's Day.
For the Irish in Ireland, the day is still about mass and a family feast of roast chicken or bacon - not corned beef. Some people stop at the pub to have a pint with friends as they might after any mass but drinking isn't associated with the holiday.
The St. Patrick's Day parades seen today in Ireland are a result of American influence. The Irish found that hosting outlandish American style St. Paddy's celebrations were a great way to boost spring tourism. For St. Patrick's tourists in Ireland there are parades in Cork, Dublin, Galway, and many of the other larger cities. Festivities include street theater, fireworks, live music, literary tours, and carnivals.
So how did St. Patrick's Day evolve from a quiet religious ritual in Ireland to a rowdy celebration of Irish-ness in America?
When millions of uneducated Irish fled to America to escape the potato famine, they faced racial prejudice and violence. They quickly learned that uniting and voting as one could give them power and turn the political tide in their favor. They took to marching through the streets on St. Patrick's Day as a show of Irish unity and pride.
According to the 2010 US Census, there are over 34 million people of Irish decent in America, including yours truly. Over the the past few decades, the Irish and their holiday have been embraced by the American people. The holiday has evolved with typical American exuberance. In America on March 17, everyone's Irish. Including Saint Patrick. Who was Welsh.
I offer you an Irish toast to your health this Saint Patrick's Day. Sláinte!
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