17th March is St Patrick’s Day, a day which seems to celebrated far more widely than the other three UK patron saints. In particular, the Irish-American community in the USA have a long tradition of lavish celebration on St Patrick’s Day.
St Patrick’s Day is so much part of American tradition that Time Magazine has even suggested that it was invented in its modern form on the eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean.
As recently as the1970s, there were no St. Patrick’s Day parties in the UK or Ireland. The “troubles” in Northern Ireland was at its peak. There was no way that British cities would celebrate Irish traditions. At that time, the day was something that was more about Irish America than it was about Ireland.
The observance of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland dates back to the 17th century. It commemorates the death of St. Patrick in the fifth century. Patrick is credited with having brought Christianity to Ireland. The day’s importance was confirmed in 1631 when it was recognized by the Vatican.
For most Irish people, the day remained primarily religious right into the 20th century. The day wasn’t even a public holiday in Ireland until 1904.
In the 20th century, the day became a public spectacle, with a military parade in Dublin from the 1920s to the 1950s. However, it was a serious day with mass in the morning, the military parade at noon and the bars across the country closed for the day. (Irish bars didn’t begin opening on March 17 until the mid-1960s.)
The military parade was replaced by a carnival parade and entertainment from the 1960s, and in 1996, the St. Patrick’s Festival began and runs to this day. This is a four-day event of music, treasure hunts, performances, and of course, on the day itself, a two-hour parade that draws up to half a million people onto the streets of Dublin.
The Irish celebrations were directly inspired by what was happening in the real home of St. Patrick’s Day, the U.S. The first recorded celebrations of March 17 took place in Boston in 1737, when a group of elite Irish men came together to celebrate over dinner what they referred to as “the Irish saint.” The tradition of parading began amongst Irish Catholic members of the British Army in New York in 1766.
The day grew in significance following the end of the Civil War and the arrival, across the 19th century, of ever increasing numbers of Irish immigrants. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were originally focused on districts where the Irish lived and were highly localized.
By the end of the 19th century, St. Patrick’s Day was being observed on the streets of major Irish cities such as Boston, Chicago, and New York, as well as in other cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco, and Savannah.
Gradually, the day became one that was also celebrated by people with no Irish heritage.
By the 20th century, St. Patrick’s Day became a marketing bonanza: greetings cards, shamrocks, T-shirts and the food and drink. With the help of Irish societies and Irish commerce (mostly Guinness and the ubiquitous Irish bar in every town) has meant that St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have spread across the country.
Only more recently, once it was established as a bona-fide American cultural phenomenon, and again aided by such Irish cultural ambassadors as U2, Guinness, and those ubiquitous pubs, did St. Patrick’s Day become a full-fledged celebration—whose spirit was re-imported in its Americanized form back to Ireland itself.
So, wherever you may be on this day, raise a glass to toast not only good old Ireland, but America’s interpretation of it as well.
St Patrick’s Day Jewellery
We are very happy to offer some beautiful charm jewellery for anyone who is Irish – or Irish at Heart. Celebrate St Patrick’s Day with our Shamrock pendant and earrings.