Feature Writer Karen Crowder – The History of Saint Patrick’s Day

On March 17th, many countries across the globe celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

According to Wikipedia, St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain early in the 4th century into a wealthy Romano-British family. He had many religious influences in his life. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the early Christian church. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and held as a prisoner. Upon his release, he returned to Britain and studied to become a priest, converting the Irish to Christianity. He would commonly use the shamrock, a green three-leaf plant, as a teaching tool to demonstrate the Trinity. This is where the tradition of wearing green and the shamrock symbol originate. Patrick was a missionary for thirty years, and died on March 17, 461.

The Irish began celebrating their patron Saint Patrick’s in the 9th century, making it a Holy day by the 16th century. The celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day continually spread across the globe and by the 20th century, was recognized with parades, masses, music, and parties in honor of this famous Saint.

Parades are held everywhere, with some of the biggest ones here in the U.S. New York City boasts the largest parade in the world, with the oldest civilian parades. Holyoke, Massachusetts, a college town, claims the title of second largest parades in the U.S. According to Wikipedia, it is always held on the Sunday following Saint Patrick’s Day. Boston started celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in the late 18th century. Evacuation Day, a legal holiday, is also on this day in Boston and throughout Suffolk County. Seattle has the oldest parade in the Northwest, complete with Soda Bread baking contests. Savanna, Georgia had one of the oldest Irish immigrant populations in the Southeast and has celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day since 1824.

In Canada, Montreal has a shamrock on the bottom of their flag. Manitoba celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day for three days in Newfoundland and in Labrador it is a provincial holiday. Ireland actually has a quieter celebration of this day, avoiding the parties and drinking done in other countries.

Another interesting fact is that if Saint Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, Lenten restrictions against eating meat are lifted for anyone who usually abstains from meat on Fridays during Lent.

Common traditional foods are corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. When looking up recipes at www.history.com/saintpatrick’sday, I found some intriguing dishes, like Irish Brown Bread, Champ–a delicious potato dish–and beef and Guinness pie.

For me and many others in the Midwest and Northeast Saint Patrick’s Day also reminds us that Spring is only a few days away. The weather often cooperates, but there are many stories of parades ruined by rain and even a late snow storm.

If you wish to know more about Saint Patrick or the holiday celebrations around the world, go to Wikipedia.com or www.history.com. They have a wealth of information.

I wish all Ziegler readers a belated Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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