March 17 will be another green-themed day in almost all of the 50 states in the U.S. as the country celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not only a celebration honoring the patron saint of Ireland, but also a celebration of the country’s Irish-American culture.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is centuries-old. It started as a gathering of people of Irish ancestry in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737 and emulated in New York City in 1762. The annual gathering evolved into grander affairs with parades becoming the norm for each year’s commemoration since 1771. Today, 33 cities hold the biggest St. Patrick’s Day events in the U.S.
Themes for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are usually Irish-inspired food, drinks and parties. It is normal for revelers to dress in green clothes and feast on food tinged with green. It’s usual to find special deals, special events and parties in Irish pubs and clubs across the country. But one of the most awaited events are the street parades.
You’re guaranteed to have lots of fun and entertainment if you are in New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Houston, Savannah, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Denver and Seattle. In some towns, the highlight of the day is to see green-dyed water in selected public places, like in 2005 when the Chicago River was dyed green. You’ll be seeing various symbols related to this day. There’s the shamrock, which is also used to represent the Holy Trinity for the Catholics. White, orange and green are also used, taking from the colors of the flag of Ireland, beer brands of Irish origin and other religious symbols, such as the harp, serpents and snakes, a pot of gold and leprechauns.
Not a federal holiday
St. Patrick’s Day is not a federal holiday though, so organizations, businesses and schools remain open. Traffic rerouting is possible for areas where parades are held, which can be right on March 17 or a few days before it. But for people living in Savannah, Georgia or in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, they’ll be enjoying a day off, as it is a legal holiday in these two areas.
In the United States, the origin of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration is different from the traditional event in Ireland, which is more religious in nature.
In the U. S., the first event was held in 1737 in Boston, where elite Irish men gathered to have dinner to celebrate the death anniversary of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. It went on for a few years before the first parade held in honor of the Irish saint was held in New York in 1766. No parade was ever held in honor of the revered saint in Ireland before that. The now traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade is an American original.
The first parade was held in New York where members of the British Army who were Irish Catholics organized the event. The event grew more significant after the Civil War ended. As the number of Irish immigrants to the U.S. increased dramatically, the parade became more popular. This is primarily because the Irish communities wanted to dispel the image of Irish immigrants as diseased, criminals, violent and drunkards. They wanted to display their identity and their civic pride.
From localized celebrations, the Irish-Americans used speeches and symbols to honor their religion and their patron saint, all the while showing their link to their old country and their loyal belief in their new home, the United States of America. They used the parade to publicly declared that they relish their dual identity – a community that believed their country of origin will forever be free from British rule while showing huge thanks for the liberties and values that living in the U.S. gave them.
The popularity of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration has made the tradition a great commercial success. Last year, Americans, not only those with any Irish ties, spent $4.4 billion. This year, according to the projections of the National Retail Federation (NRF), which is based on the annual survey done by the Prosper Insights & Analytics for the NRF, Americans will likely spend about $5.3 billion, which will be a record-high in the 13-year history of this particular survey.