Monday, March 17, 2008
Happy Colonial St. Patrick's Day
The holiday known throughout the western world as St. Patrick's Day is most commonly associated with Catholicism and Irish pride. After all, the holiday was created to commemorate the death of the Catholic Saint, Patrick, in 493.
So why is this such a popular holiday in the United States?
The origins of St. Patrick's Day in the United States date back to colonial times. Protestant Irish immigrants brought the festival over to the American colonies during the initial years of colonization. These early Irish Protestants were seeking refuge from the traditional Catholic rituals of Ireland, and therefore found refuge in the New World.
The first St. Patrick's Day celebration in America was held in 1737, in Boston. Most English colonists embraced the holiday as a Protestant day of worship (not to mention as an excuse to get drunk). In 1775, Irish-Americans celebrated St. Patrick's Day with a large number of British soldiers that had arrived to suppress the rebellion in the colonies. In New York, British soldiers celebrated St. Patrick's Day after their siege of the city was complete. In fact, many loyal colonists commemorated St. Patrick's Day as a day to celebrate Britain's "liberation" of the colonies.
As a gesture of appreciation to the many Irish soldiers of the Continental Army, General George Washington proclaimed March 17 as a holiday for the entire Army during their stay at Morristown. It was reported that this was the first holiday granted the troops in over two years.
Though the holiday is celebrated with much more gusto and extravagance today, the origins of America's St. Patrick's Day festivities are very much rooted in our colonial history. One can only wonder if a leprechaun or two helped in America's quest for independence!
Are you all wearing green today?