Irish, Irish at Heart Celebrate St. Patrick's Day
St Patrick's Day is celebrated Sunday by the Irish and Irish at heart in big cities and small towns all around the world.
March 17, Saint Patrick's Day, or casually St. Paddy's Day or Paddy's Day, is an annual feast day which honors Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
The day is the national holiday of Ireland. In the past, Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated as a religious holiday.
It was only in the mid-1990s that the Irish government began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's Day to showcase Ireland and its culture.
At the beginning, the religious holiday marked the death of Patrick. The holy man was born into an ecclesiastical family in Roman Britain in the late fourth century.
Legend has it that, at the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to the west coast of Ireland as a slave. Told in a dream by God to escape, he made his way to Auxerre (in present-day France) where he entered the Church, studying to become a priest.
Years later, and by then a bishop, Patrick returned to Ireland to preach and convert the local people to Christianity. He taught in Ireland for the next 30 years until his death on March 17, 461 AD. To explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, he used the three-leaved shamrock, a symbol associated with him and with Ireland ever since.
St. Patrick's Blue, not green, was the color long-associated with St. Patrick. Green, the color most widely associated with Irish national identity and loyalty to the Catholic Church, and with St. Patrick's Day in modern times, may have gained its prominence through the phrase "the wearing of the green" meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing. St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on this holiday since at least the 17th century.
In many parts of North America, Britain, and Australia, expatriate Irish and ever-growing crowds of people with no Irish connections but who may proclaim themselves "Irish for a day," both Christians and non-Christians, also observe St. Patrick's Day.
Around the world the day has become a time for fun. Most celebrate the secular version of the holiday by wearing green, eating Irish food and/or green foods, imbibing Irish drink (such as Irish stout, Irish Whiskey or Irish Cream), performing Irish music and songs, attending parades, and organizing activities for kids such as crafts, coloring and games. Some communities even go so far as to dye rivers or streams green.
The St. Patrick's Day parade was first held in Boston in 1761, organized by the Charitable Society.
Today, the New York parade is the largest, typically drawing two million spectators and 150,000 marchers. The predominantly French-speaking Canadian city of Montreal, in the province of Qu?bec has the longest continually running Saint Patrick's day parade in North America, since 1824.
Ireland's cities all hold their own parades and festivals, including Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Waterford. The St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin is part of a five-day festival.
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