ST. GEORGE – It’s that time of year again when we don our best greens and beg to be kissed but not pinched as we all claim heritage to the “Emerald Isle” for a day. Yes, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and even if you are not Irish it is a time for a little history and a lot of luck.
There are many misconceptions surrounding the March 17 holiday and though most people will lay claim to celebrating it in some way – be it green, gold or Guinness – many don’t actually know why the day and the saint are revered.
St. George News spent some time in the city’s Town Square, asking visitors what they know about all things green.
Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Most people said it has something to do with a saint and Ireland. Whitney Kittrell of St. George said we celebrate because we need more luck in our lives.
Who was Saint Patrick? Annie Jones said that she was not sure but he must have done something wonderful.
And of course, why do we wear green on this day each year? The overwhelming response was, “so we don’t get pinched.”
Pinched or not, below you will find a little bit of interesting history surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and how it is celebrated near and far.
According to History.com’s Web page, Saint Patrick was an English boy of about 16 when he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sent to prison for 6 years. Saint Patrick later escaped but returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people.
It is believed that Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461, and was mostly forgotten in death, but legends and myths about his life would later crop up and Patrick was eventually named the patron saint of Ireland.
Two of the most popular myths about Saint Patrick are: one, he drove all the snakes out of Ireland; and two, he used a three-leafed clover to explain the holy trinity.
But, according to History.com, there were never any snakes in Ireland and the icy waters that surround the island would not allow for snakes to migrate there.
As for the clover, historians agree that it is likely just a myth as well as there are no records in Saint Patrick’s writings of that analogy ever being used to describe the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
St. Patrick’s Day
As a religious holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has been observed for over 1,000 years. While it falls during the Christian season of Lent, the restrictive observance of not eating meat was lifted on that day and people were allowed to celebrate, drink, dance and feast on Irish bacon and cabbage.
Today, the patron saint’s day of feasting is celebrated around the world.
March 17 celebrations
Largely a religious holiday, it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that Ireland began to captialize on the growing popularity of St. Patrick’s Day revelry. In fact, History.com states that until the 1970s, Irish law madated that all pubs be closed in reverence of the saint.
Today over 1 million people flock to Dublin to participate in the multiday celebration that features parades, performances and even fireworks shows.
In Chicago, the city dyes its famous river green with 45 pounds of vegetable dye color. Some 400,000 spectators line the river between the city streets of Columbus and Wacker drives and watch as the water is turned to a glorious jewel green shade.
New York City, New York
According to nyctrip.com’s Web page, The first parade for St. Patrick’s Day in New York City was held in 1762 by a group of homesick Irish military recruited to serve in the British Army.
The parade is always held on March 17 unless the holiday falls on a Sunday, and it has grown to include between 150,000-250,000 marchers and over 2 million spectators according to nyctrip.com.
The parade features plenty of green-clad marchers, bagpipes and flags but remains “a true marcher’s parade,” the site states, by not allowing floats, automobiles or other commercial entities.
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade was the first and is the largest in the world.
Boston, Massachusetts, has a large celebration every March 17. However, the celebration is not punctuated by kegs of green beer and shamrocks. According to a story posted on boston.com, the day celebrates American forces driving the British out of Boston in 1776 by an ingenious ruse. It’s known as Evacuation Day.
General George Washington knew the Continental Army was undermanned. General John Knox quietly moved 59 cannons 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston starting on March 4, 1776, and positioned them on Dorchester Heights. While 59 cannons was a lot, it wasn’t enough to create the effect sought. The wily Knox had another trick up his sleeve. He had his troops cut down trees to cannon size, hollow them out, and blacken them to look like cannons.
The British, under the command of General Sir William Howe, marched into South Boston on March 17, 1776, took one look at the numerous cannons on the hill, both real and fake, and immediately withdrew their men and ships thinking they were outnumbered and outgunned.
The tie-in to St. Patrick’s day was: If you wished to pass the Continental Army’s lines, the password was “Saint Patrick.”
Evacuation Day has been celebrated in Boston since 1901’s 125th anniversary of the evacuation of the British troops from Boston. If you’re in Boston, don’t expect leprechauns and pots of gold, rather Revolutionary War re-enactments and military honors.
In Southern Utah, the town of Springdale, gateway to Zion National Park, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a parade, featuring bagpipes, the Jell-O Queen, and the Award Winning Rockville Precision Drill Team. Immediately following the parade, participants are invited to enjoy a Green Jell-O sculpture contest, a Jell-O eating contest, and a live band.
Springdale’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebration will take place Saturday beginning with the parade at 2 p.m. Following the parade visitors are encouraged to gather on the Bit n’ Spur festival lawn where the rest of the contests and festivities will take place.
View the event flyer here.
St. George News reporter Ric Wayman contributed to this report.
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