Last updated on March 26, 2018
By Katie Doll
St. Patrick’s Day is a global celebration of Irish culture on March 17. Parades and celebrations for this holiday are popular in American culture, but the history and traditions are important to note.
The Irish holiday originated as a Roman Catholic feast day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick. St. Patrick died March 17, 461, and was credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland.
While originally an Irish holiday, Irish immigrants moved to the United States and brought their traditions with them. Irish soldiers in the Revolutionary War held the first of the now famous St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Mike Cronin, a Dublin-based historian and Boston College professor, explained the holiday has changed over time to appeal to American celebrators.
“The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day grew across the U.S. and became a day that was also celebrated by people with no Irish heritage,” wrote Cronin, in his article in Time magazine.
The historian also explained the modern marketing strategies behind the holiday.
“By the 20th century, it was so ubiquitous that St. Patrick’s Day became a marketing bonanza,” wrote Cronin. “Greeting cards filled drugstores, imported Irish shamrocks (indeed anything green) showed up on T-shirts, and the food and drink that became associated with the day became bar promotions.”
Many original traditions of St. Patrick’s Day have stuck around, but few are purely American inventions, according to History.com.
The shamrock was a sacred plant that symbolized the rebirth of spring in ancient Ireland. Soon it became a symbol for Irish pride after the English banned the Irish language and Catholicism.
A traditional dish for Irish Americans to eat on St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage. Cabbage has been an Irish food for a long time, but corned beef was an American alternative for Irish bacon that was too expensive for Irish immigrants.
One of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in America is in Savannah, Georgia. According to the official website of Savannah, Georgia, the parade will start at 10:15 a.m., Saturday, March 17, 2018. The parade will feature up to 15,000 people and 350 marching units.