St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in America in 1737, organized by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, including a feast and religious service. This first celebration of the holiday in the colonies was largely to honor and celebrate the Irish culture that so many colonists had been separated from.
Early celebrations continued this modest tradition. In New York, the first celebration took place as a small gathering at the home of an Irish protestant. St. Patrick’s Day parades started in New York in 1762 by a group of Irish soldiers in the British military who marched down Broadway. This began the tradition of a military theme in the parade, as they often feature marching military unites. The holiday eventually evolved from the modest religious dinner into the raucous holiday we know today.
This holiday is celebrated every year on March 17th, honoring the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick. The celebrations are largely Irish culture themed and typically consist of wearing green, parades, and drinking. Some churches may hold religious services and many schools and offices close in Suffolk County, the area containing Boston and its suburbs.
People all over the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, especially places with large Irish-American communities. Feasting on the day features traditional Irish food, including corned beef, corned cabbage, coffee, soda bread, potatoes, and shepherd’s pie. Many celebrations also hold an Irish breakfast of sausage, black and white pudding, fried eggs, and fried tomatoes. Common traditions include:
- Parades – This event is most often associated with the holiday. Cities that hold large parades include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Savannah, and other cities worldwide.
- Drinking – Since many Catholics are Irish-American, some may be required to fast from drinking during Lent. However, they are allowed to break this fast during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. This is one cause for the day’s association with drinking heavily.
- Dying water or beer green – Chicago dies its river green for the festivities, and many bars serve green-dyed beer. The White House fountain is also dyed green.
- Other incorporations of green – In Seattle, the parade routes are painted in green. Observers are supposed to wear green or else risk being pinched. Parade floats and decorations will feature the color green.
- Religious services – Those who celebrate the holiday in a religious context may also hold a feast. Outside of this context, overindulgence tends to revolve around drinking.
- Pea planting – In the Northeast, many celebrate by planting peas. This is largely due to the color and time of year (prime pea-planting conditions.
Everyone’s Irish on St. Paddy’s Day, so get your Irish on and celebrate!