Saturday, March 17, 2012

What is St. Patrick's Day?

St. Patrick's Day is a religious feast day observed on the anniversary of his death, March 17. St. Patrick's Day falls during the Christian season of Lent which prohibits the consumption of meat. Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon, the prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and the people would dance, drink, and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. Up until the 1970's Irish laws prohibited pubs across Ireland from opening on March 17 due to the quite dignity of the holy day.

The United States is the home to the very first St. Patrick's Day Parade when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the streets of New York City on March 17, 1762. This parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Through the next thirty-five years Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, which prompted the rise of "Irish Aid" societies that would hold annual parades. In 1848 several New York Irish aid societies united their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. That parade is held to this day and is the world's oldest civilian parade as well as being the largest held in the United States. President Truman attended the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City in 1948, this was a proud moment for many Irish Americans whose ancestors fought stereotypes and racial prejudice to be accepted in America.

In 1962, two hundred years after the first St. Patrick's Day Parade, Chicago pollution-control workers used green dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges. They realized that this might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year they poured 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river, this was enough to keep the river green for a week. Today they only use 40 pounds of dye which will keep it green for only a few hours.

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