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Where did the St. Patrick’s Day celebration originate?

St. Patrick was a bishop and missionary in Ireland near the end of the Roman empire. Patrick was instrumental in bringing Catholic beliefs to Ireland. The day was a religious holiday for more than 1000 years before becoming what it is today.

St. Patrick’s life beginnings were filled with hardship. When Maewyn Succat, was a young man, he was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland for hard labor. He was able to escape and traveled back to Britain where he is believed to have been born and entered the clergy taking the name Patricius, meaning Father. Twelve years later, he returned to Ireland as a Bishop. Even though he was not Irish by birth, he embodied the spirit of Ireland and became the patron saint of Ireland shortly after his death in 461. During his life he established monasteries, churches and schools throughout Ireland and won the hearts of all Irish people.

Originally the celebration on March 17th, was a religious celebration, where people went to church and religious services reflection on the life of St. Patrick. In the 18th century Irish immigrants in America celebrated the holiday in a different fashion, outward celebrating their Irish history and culture. This included parades, wearing of the green, music, food and drink representing Irish traditions.

Boston was the first to hold a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1737, it then spread to other large Irish populated cities in the US. Originally blue was the color associated with St. Patrick, today it is all about the green.

While legends of St. Patrick driving snakes from Ireland and how he used the 3-leaf clover to tell the trinity story may or may not be true, today’s celebrations include parts of many old Irish legends. Celtic legends and traditions are also included in the day’s celebration. The use of the 3-leaf clover or shamrock is an ancient symbol for the goddess Brigit. The Celtic trickery fairy, a leprechaun has also become tied to this celebration day.

Today more than 100 parades are held in the U.S. The largest being in New York with over 150,000 participants. Many non-Irish Americans celebrate this special day with wearing of the green and a meal of Corned beef and cabbage.

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