TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Green fills the streets as parade floats drive by and people cheer in celebration. People in green outfits swarm the streets alongside parade floats, drinks and merry songs. The story behind the annually celebrated festivities starts with a man named Maewyn who was born in Britain, kidnapped and taken as a slave in Ireland. He later escaped to a monastery in France where he converted to Christianity, according to GeoriaPublicBroadcast.org.
Chicago river dyed green on St. Patrick's Day, looking east from Michigan Avenue bridge. (Image provided by Mike Boehmer, March 2009 via Flickr / Wikimedia Commons)
Eventually Maewyn became a bishop, spreading the Christian faith and beliefs throughout Ireland. Many of the symbols used today for decorations and lore are tied to things Maewyn, later known as St. Patrick, used during his travels. One such item is the Shamrock (three-leaf clover), which he used to explain the holy trinity to groups of people. Some traditions stem from practices that were started after the annual celebration began in the United States.
Traditions include dying a section of a river green, which began in Chicago in 1962 when city officials decided to dye a portion of the Chicago River green. Another staple of the holiday comes in the form of a popular dish. Due to poverty, certain meals couldn't be afforded so Irish American families bought beef and cabbage which became a famous dish for the holiday, according to GeoriaPublicBroadcast.org.
Until the 1970s, St. Patrick's Day, in Ireland, was a minor religious holiday. A priest would acknowledge the feast day, and families would celebrate with a big meal. The celebration truly became popular by Irish-Americans in America, according to NationalGeographic.com.
After the fame of the parade in New York City increased, other cities with Irish communities began hosting their celebration such as Boston, Massachusetts; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina. As St. Patrick Parades began to flourish, wearing the color green signified a commitment to Ireland.
Myths and beliefs also come with the history of the holiday. Some of which include wearing the Shamrock in remembrance and tradition, a myth that St. Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland explaining the lack of scaly reptiles on the island, and other stories that were spread after his death in 461 A.D. After his death, however, tales of his travels began to spread and eventually his name and stories became a basis for the holiday famously celebrated today, according to the National Geographic's official website.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated every year on March 17 with shamrocks, stories, Irish food, drinks and parades. Celebrations such as New York City's St. Patrick's Day Parade have been part of the history of this country. 18th-century Irish soldiers fighting with the British in the U.S. Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick's Day parade March 17, 1762, according to National Geographic's official website, making it one of America's oldest Irish traditions. The Parade can still be viewed on New York City's 5th Avenue between 44th St. and 79th St. every year.
March 17, people all over the country will don green outfits and accessories to celebrate the Irish holiday. From a march of Irish soldiers through New York City over 200 years ago to a national holiday celebrated both in the United States and Ireland, St. Patrick's Day continues to be an important part of both American and Irish culture.
So whether you celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a big green hat and clothes or by eating some beef and cabbage, March 17 is set aside to remember what St. Patrick, an adopted citizen of Ireland, did for the people in his country.
By USMC Lance Cpl. Charles Santamaria
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