St Patrick's Day 101
St. Patrick's Day – Celebrating the Green
The First Parade
St. Patrick's Day, March 17, celebrates the religious feast day and the anniversary of St. Patrick's death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years. St. Patrick is believed to have driven the snakes from Ireland.
On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast — on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
Over the next thirty-five years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called "Irish Aid" societies, like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.
No Irish Need Apply
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor, uneducated, Catholic Irish began to pour into America to escape starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.
Wearing of the Green Goes Global
Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick's Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17. Beginning in 1995, however, the Irish government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to drive tourism and showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.
The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow."
Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.
In fact the first written mention of this story did not appear until nearly a thousand years after Patrick's death.
The shamrock, which was also called the "seamroy" by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.
The Man, the Myth, the Legend: St. Patrick
St. Patrick is often viewed as the undeniable icon of Irish religion. He took on a 30-year mission to convert Ireland, established schools, churches and monasteries, and according to legend, completely rid Ireland of snakes. So what is the real story behind the man holding the three-leaf clover? Well for one, he didn’t start out Irish or Patrick.
Born Maewyn Succat, the young Brit was kidnapped at age 16 by Celtic raiders and sold into slavery in Hibernia (Ireland). He spent six years alone, herding cattle on a mountain. One day he escaped and returned back to his family, where he decided to study at a monastery and become a priest. He changed his name to “Patricius” and began having spiritual visions. In a dream one night, a man approached him with a letter that read: “Vox Hibernionaccum” or “Voice of the Irish.” After 12 years in a French monastery, at the age of 60, he changed his name to Patrick and returned to Ireland.
Irish-American immigrants brought Saint Patrick's Day to the United States. The first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in the 13 colonies took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on March 17. This event became known as The St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780.
Current Day Celebrations
Today, Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated in the United States by Irish and non-Irish alike. Many people, regardless of ethnic background, wear green-colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those of Irish ancestry who are caught not wearing green are pinched.
Today, the tradition continues with people from all walks and heritages by wearing green, eating Irish food, and attending parades. St. Patrick's Day is bursting with folklore; from the shamrock to the leprechaun and to pinching those that are not wearing green.
Many parades are held to celebrate the holiday. The smallest of these, World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the United States annually held on historic Bridge Street which became famous in the 1940s when Ripley's Believe It or Not designated it "The Shortest Street in the World." Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade, which is also less than a single city block.
The New York parade has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world, outside Ireland. In 2006 more than 150,000 marchers participated in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, and social and cultural clubs and was watched by close to 2 million spectators lining the streets. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment. New York politicians – or those running for office – are always found prominently marching in the parade. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once proclaimed himself "Ed O'Koch" for the day, and he continues to don an Irish sweater and march every year, even though he is no longer in office.
The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. For many years, the St. Patrick's Day Parade was the primary public function of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
The New York parade is moved to the previous Saturday (March 16) in years where March 17 is a Sunday. The event is also moved on the rare occasions when, due to Easter falling on a very early date, March 17 would land in Holy Week. This last occurred in 1913. That year the parade was held on Saturday, March 15, because Easter was on March 23 (making March 17 the Monday of Holy Week). This same scenario is scheduled to arise again in 2008, when Easter will also fall on March 23. In many other American cities (such as San Francisco), the parade is always held on the Sunday before March 17, regardless of the liturgical calendar.
Some cities paint the traffic stripe of their parade routes green. Others, including Chicago, dye major rivers green. Savannah also dyes its downtown city fountains green.
Eureka Springs and the Irish
Times Echo — Thurs, March 17, 1994
The Eureka Springs Scots Basketball Team was honored by a parade that started at the Post Office at 4p.m. and was sponsored by Radio Station KRLK-FM. However, instead of Green, the colors were Red and White and the theme was “Hail to the Highlanders and Happy St. Patrick Day.” The King and Queen were students Chris Wise and Stacy Bass.
Times Echo — Thurs, March 16, 1995
Organized by Archie Ryan and George Christman, the 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held on Friday, March 17, 1995, at 4p.m. starting from the Post Office. The Army National Guard Band leading the parade followed by High School bands, floats, trolleys, horses, and groups. Floyd Miles, of the Miles Musical Museum, was Grandmarshal.
Archie Ryan, Founder Eureka Springs St Patrick’s Parade since 1995, and
Joe Easton, with Stick, of Chelsea’s, annually put on a Pub Crawl ending at Pied Piper and back with their group called the “All Star Kazoo & Free Form Marching Band.” They first lit out in 1996.
The Ryan group held parades on Saturday before St Pat’s Day and the Easton group got prepped up at Chelsea’s on March 17th before taking to the streets.
They eventually joined together and paraded on every March 17th at 4pm
Krewe of Blarney
Resurrection of the Krewe of Blarney Halfast Walkin' Klub took place in Eureka Springs on Sat, March 17th, 2007, headed by Dan Ellis.
(The original Klub, was organized by Kaptain Dan Ellis, as the only Walking Parade on the Mississippi Gulf Coast – a take-off from Ellis' many years of participation in the legendary Pete Fountain Half-Fast Marching Club of New Orleans.)
(The Krewe of Blarney's annual tradition consisted of a joyous VIP pre-parade party sponsored and paid for by a small group of businessmen and politicos decked out in Tuxedos who, after the parade, ended up at a FREE-For-ALL — Open-To-The-Public — Corn Beef, Green Cabbage, Orange carrots and Green Beer Soiree honoring and Toasting the Irish and all Irish-Wannabees.
Saturday, March 15, 2008 was officially St. Patrick’s Day that year
Because Easter Sunday (March 23, 2008) fell earlier in the Calendar, Mardi Gras was moved up. Not withstanding, the calendar conflict during Catholic Holy Week had to be negotiated.
In resolution, Irish bishops moved St. Patrick's Day 2008 to Saturday, March 15. Church authorities reportedly spent weeks debating where to move the feast day because March 17, 2008, fell on the second day of Holy Week.
Thus, marked the first time the date had been changed since 1940. The next conflict with Holy Week is not expected until 2160.