St. Patrick’s Day, also referred to as St. Paddy’s Day, began on March 17th, 461 A.D. with the death of St. Patrick. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland although he was not born an Irishman. The day has been celebrated in Ireland for over one thousand years. Although he was not born an Irishman, but was British, St. Patrick and the celebration of his day as a National Holiday in Ireland; and as a day of celebration for the Irish and all things representing the Irish in the United States can be attributed to his years of service to the Irish in Ireland in which he converted the predominantly “pagan” people to Catholicism. “Pagans” are people who either do not believe in God, or those who worship false gods. St. Patrick believed in the Trinity comprised of God-the-Father, God-the-Son, and God-the-Holy Spirit.
By Cleo E. Brown
The story of St. Patrick is an interesting one. He was born in 385 AD in either Scotland or England. Patricius Maewyn Succat was his given name at birth which was shortened to Patrick. His father, named Calpurnius, was a Roman-British Army Officer. One day, as he was playing in Great Britain with a group of other children, he was kidnapped by pirates who sold him into slavery in Ireland. Patrick spent six years imprisoned in Ireland during which time legend says that God appeared to Patrick telling Patrick how to escape Ireland and return to Britain. Eventually, however, he joined a monastery in France where he spent twelve years learning how to be a cleric. Once he became a Bishop, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the people to his religion and to tell them about the God that he believed in. Although Patrick was arrested several times because of the converts he made, especially among the Royal Class, he escaped each time. He traveled extensively throughout Ireland establishing many monasteries across the country. St. Patrick also established schools, churches, and church councils as well as a church hierarchy of clerics (priest, monsignor, bishop, cardinal).
St. Patrick is also attributed with having driven all of the snakes out of Ireland. Religious symbols associated with Saint Patrick, which have become secular in nature are, the three-leafed shamrock (which he used to teach people about the Trinity); the leprechaun; the wearing of green; the blarney stone; and the pot of gold.
The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade took place in the United States in New York City on March 17th, 1762. The parade helped those Irish soldiers, who were then a part of the English Militia, to reconnect with their Irish roots as well as with other Irish soldiers who were members of the militia. For the next thirty-five years, the tradition of having St. Patrick’s Day Parades grew until there were many parades held by Irish Aid Societies throughout New York City. In 1848, however, these societies decided to combine the parades into one large parade.
Today, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States having over one hundred and fifty thousand participants. It is estimated that, each year, over three million people line the one-and-a-half mile parade route to watch the procession which takes over five hours to view.
The parade route, which begins along fifth avenue at 44th Street at 11:00 A.M. marches past St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street, the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd Street, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 83rd to 86th Street finishing between 4:30 and 5:00 P.M. Although the city of New York has been ordered to stream line the length of all New York City parades by twenty-five percent in 2010, this new law, which will not go into affect until April 1st, will not affect this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is expected to be five-and-a-half hours long. The Grand Marshall of this years parade is NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated today as a secular holiday in many regions of the world. Although it is not an official holiday in the United States it is celebrated extensively by the Irish in the United States, especially in New York, but also including Washington D. C., Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, and Seattle.
About The Author: Cleo E. Brown has a Master’s Degree in Contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis in Davis, California. She also has a B.A. Minor Degree in Political-Science and has completed course work towards a Ph.D. in Education from The University of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. She is a Free Lance Writer and a Senior Editor at HHR