The History of St. Patrick’s Day: Chicago Celebrates

The History of St. Patrick’s Day: Chicago Celebrates

St. Patrick’s Day is an important holiday in towns like Chicago, New York, Boston and Philadelphia, where there is a concentration of people of Irish-descent.  It’s mandatory to celebrate the day and days leading to it by wearing green, eating a corned beef sandwich at the local tavern, drinking a few stouts and marching in or going to the parade.  It is an often a family affair, with generations celebrating this important occasion together, side by side.

The holiday is named after Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, and was the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16.  He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people.

In the centuries following Patrick’s death (believed to have been onMarch 17, 461), the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture. Perhaps, the most well known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast–on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Since, around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day St. Patrick on March 17. Interestingly, however, the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.  Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

Being part Irish, I knew some of the history of St. Patrick’s Day.  After all, my grandmother was a Coughlin, but  I didn’t know what Saint Patrick’s real name was.  His name was Maewyn Succat!  We may have been celebrating Succat Day if he hadn’t been ordained Patricuis by the Romans.

To all my Irish friends who are proud of their rich heritage, have a fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day weekend!  You bring spirit to any City you reside!  Now, let’s have a toast and talk blarney!

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