Saint Patrick’s Day – Part 5

Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States

Saint Patrick’s Day, although a legal holiday only in Suffolk County, Massachusetts (where it is recognized alongside Evacuation Day) and Savannah, Georgia,[ is nonetheless widely recognized and celebrated throughout the United States. It is primarily celebrated as a recognition of Irish and Irish American culture; celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and numerous parades. The holiday has been celebrated on the North American continent since the late 18th century.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers in the United States spent $4.4 billion on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016. This amount is down from the $4.8 billion spent in 2014.

Early Celebrations

The world’s first recorded St Patrick’s Day celebration was in St. Augustine, Florida, in the year 1600 according to Dr. Michael Franicis’s 2017 research in the Spanish Archives of the Indies. Franicis discovered the first St. Patrick Day Parade was also in St. Augustine in 1601. Both were organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur (Richard Arthur).

The Charitable Irish Society of Boston organized the first observance of Saint Patrick’s Day in the Thirteen Colonies in 1737. Surprisingly, the celebration was not Catholic in nature, Irish immigration to the colonies having been dominated by Protestants. The society’s purpose in gathering was simply to honor its homeland, and although they continued to meet annually to coordinate charitable works for the Irish community in Boston, they did not meet on 16 March again until 1794. During the observance of the day, individuals attended a service of worship and a special dinner.

New York’s first Saint Patrick’s Day observance was similar to that of Boston. It was held on 16 March 1762 in the home of John Marshall, an Irish Protestant, and over the next few years informal gatherings by Irish immigrants were the norm. The first recorded parade in New York was by Irish soldiers in the British Army in 1766. The first documented St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in Philadelphia was held in 1771. Philadelphia’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick was found to honor St. Patrick and to provide relief to Irish immigrants in the city. Irish Americans have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Philadelphia since their arrival in America. General George Washington, a member of Philadelphia’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, actively encouraged Irish American patriots to join the Continental Army. In 1780, while camped in Morristown, NJ, General Washington allowed his troops a holiday on March 17 “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.” This event became known as The Saint Patrick’s Day Encampment of 1780.[

George Washington’s General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops

George Washington’s General Order of March 16, 1780, granting Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops, page 2

Irish patriotism in New York City continued to soar, and the parade in New York City continued to grow. Irish aid societies like Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society were created and marched in the parades. Finally when many of these aid societies joined forces in 1848, the parade became not only the largest parade in the United States but one of the largest in the world.[

The City of Savannah, Georgia, has hosted Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations since 1824. It boasts a celebration rivaling that of New York City in size and fervor. Unlike any other cities, Savannah’s historic parade is always held on March 17, not on the neighboring weekend. Festivities begin more than a week in advance with communal rituals and commemorative ceremonies, such as the St. Patrick’s Parade. Such events were, in fact, the main factors in shaping Irish-American identity as recognized today. In fact, leading up to the 1870s, Irish-American identity in the United States was reworked through the shifting character of the Saint Patrick’s Day rituals and features under three separate occasions: initially, in 1853 when it undertook a “spiritual rhetoric” notion, then when it became known as a “reformulated memory of an Irish past couched in terms of vengeance against Britain” to, finally, adopting a “sectarian catholic nationalism” attitude in the 1870s and 1880s.

Customs today

In every year since 1991, March has been proclaimed Irish-American Heritage Monthby the US Congress or President due to the date of Saint Patrick’s Day. Christian denominations in the United States observing this feast day include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaProtestant Episcopal Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. Today, Saint Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in America by Irish and non-Irish alike. For most Irish-Americans, this holiday is both religious and festive. It is one of the leading days for consumption of alcohol in the United States, as individuals are allowed to break their Lenten sacrifices for the day in order to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. The consumption of artificially colored green beer is a common celebration.

Many people choose to wear green colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those who are caught not wearing green are pinched “affectionately”.

Many parades throughout various US cities are held to celebrate the holiday.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)