St. Patrick’s Day: History, Parades and Food
The Life of St. Patrick
St. Patrick’s Day takes place on the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who is thought to have died in 461. Contrary to what many may think, St. Patrick was not Irish − he was born in Roman Britain, in what is now England, Scotland or Wales. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to be a slave. During his time in captivity, he turned to his Christian faith. He escaped six years later, began religious training, and later returned to Ireland as a missionary. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish and non-Irish people worldwide in memory of his contributions to the spread of Christianity in Ireland.
Parades and Celebrations
The first parade for St. Patrick’s Day was held in New York City on March 17, 1762, and was put on by Irish soldiers serving in the English military. Since then, parades have become an integral part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all over the world. Major cities like Dublin, London, and New York host extravagant parades, complete with colorful floats, marching bands, and Irish dancers. Many cities also hold festivals, concerts, and cultural events which showcase Irish culture and heritage. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted St. Patrick’s Day celebrations worldwide, many cities are hosting virtual events to commemorate the day.
The Traditional Food
While St. Patrick’s Day is known for its lively parades and celebrations, food plays an equally important role in the festivities. Corned beef and cabbage is the standard St. Patrick’s Day dish in the United States, although bacon is used instead of corned beef in Ireland. Corned beef and cabbage is a spinoff of Irish bacon and cabbage, which was a traditional Irish dish. Irish immigrants in the United States replaced the bacon with corned beef, which was more readily available and cheaper. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is also a time for feasting, and traditional dishes like Irish stew, colcannon, and soda bread grace the tables of many households on this day.