History of St. Patrick's Day
We may celebrate Saint Patrick's Day with parades and green beer, but there is actually a long history behind the March 17th holiday. Our Vince Gallagher reports.
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NATIONWIDE -- When you think of St. Patrick's Day, parades and parties may come to mind, but there's a lot of history and culture behind this festive holiday.
"We celebrate his death, but in celebrating his death, we celebrate his life and the whole Christian faith that is now part of Ireland,” said Ed Collins, Irish American Heritage Museum Trustee.
That's the "life and death" of St. Patrick, who became the most recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. St. Patrick's Day became an official holiday in Ireland in the early 17th century on March 17th, the day St. Patrick died.
"The Irish, for a thousand years, celebrated the memory and the work of St. Patrick religiously. It was a religious day in Ireland,” said Collins.
The Irish-American connection started when thousands of Irish immigrants began working on the Erie Canal.
"From that point on, we had Irish engineers, Irish architects. We had Irish elected officials funding the project. We had an Irish governor, Dewey Clinton, who really pushed it through and made it a reality,” said Collins.
It was also around this time that St. Patrick's Day celebrations were growing throughout the United States; although. it's not considered a legal holiday anywhere in the country.
"There were a number of parades in New York City and they were consolidated in 1848 into one large parade which we see today. It is the largest parade in the world celebrating the memory of St. Patrick,” said Collins.
One familiar tradition, wearing green actually started out as blue, the national color of Ireland.
"Ireland is such as green country in terms of everything that grows so well there and because of the jet stream coming up from the South Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Ireland is so green that everyone assimilates a green color,” said Collins.
And when it comes to celebrating the holiday, there is a big difference in the United States and Ireland.
"We have festivities, and in America, we celebrate it more as of a festive occasion. In Ireland, it has always been a religious occasion,” said Collins.
But either way, it remains a celebration.