Luck of the Irish

By: Rachel Haywood
Staff Writer

Celebrated on March 17th, the Catholic feast day for Saint Patrick, the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762. Saint Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish people in the fifth century after he escaped from slavery at the age of 16. You could say this man had a way with words, because he explained the Holy Trinity using an Irish clover, known today as the shamrock. The rare four leaf clovers bring good luck.

St. Patrick’s Day used to be celebrated by many groups of Irish immigrants in America. In 1848, several of these groups united to celebrate this historic holiday together in New York City. The Saint Patrick’s Day parade held in New York is the oldest and largest parade in the U.S. The parade route stretches 1½ miles long, and it takes its 150,000 participants over five hours to complete from start to finish.

You might be wondering why so many Irish people came to America the first place. The Potato Famine of 1845 pushed nearly one million Irish Catholics to America in search of food and financial stability. Discriminated for their religious beliefs, hope of equality and a better life for the Irish dwindled. The “green machine” (voting block) emerged as the Irish Americans organized their lives and equality for all slowly fell into place. The Irish settled into their new home so well that the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade gave the immigrants the chance to showcase the strength of their unique heritage.

In Chicago, the Irish influence inspired the dyeing of the Chicago River. This tradition started in 1962 when city workers dumped 100 pounds of green food coloring into the large waterway. Since then, environmental issues have surfaced and now only 40 pounds of dye are used, to minimize the damage to the river but still keep it green for a few hours.

The Irish are not the only ones that celebrate this Irish-born holiday today. Countries like Japan, Singapore, and Russia celebrate with their own traditions and festivals. North America is known for the largest parties and gatherings, but far from Ireland, the Irish holiday is still remembered. Traditionally, Ireland celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day for religious reasons, but in 1995 the government decided to use this festive holiday to draw in tourism and showcase their unique culture. One million people from around the world travel to Dublin to take part in the festivities of the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade today, in the country where it all began with a lowly slave.

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