St. Patrick's Day
Aye lads and lassies, don't ya' forget to
wear the green today. Today is St. Patrick's Day! On March
17, Irish and Irish Americans commemorate the death, as legend
has it, of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who died on
March 17, around 492. But mainly, people today honor Irish
heritage and its rich culture and traditions. Cities all over
the U.S. celebrate with parades and festivities. The most famous
of these annual festival traditions includes the Boston parade,
with its first parade in 1737; the New York City parade, which
began in 1762; and the Savannah, Georgia, parade which started
in 1812. What do you do to honor Irish tradition? Wear green?
Look for four-leaf clovers? Sing Irish songs?
Americans, especially those who arrived in the U.S. in the
1840s, have had to overcome much suffering. The Great Potato
Famine of 1845-49 claimed the lives of 1 million Irish back on
the Isle of Erin (Ireland is also called Eire). To escape
starvation, those that could immigrated to America. Most of the
Irish who settled in the U.S. during this period arrived with
little education and few material possessions. As a result, they
encountered poverty and discrimination. Most were Catholics and
also suffered because of longstanding prejudices against their
religion. But Irish Americans showed their strength and courage.
In 1862, during the Civil War, the Irish Brigade was
formed. These Irish American soldiers fought for the Union in
some of the bloodiest battles of the war. One historian, Phillip
Thomas Tucker, said, "These Celtic soldiers were fighting most
of all for their own future and an America which did not
segregate, persecute, and discriminate against the Irish people
and their Catholicism, Irish culture, and distinctive Celtic
heritage." Irish American heritage has become an important part
of American culture. In song, festivity, appearance and company,
Americans of all ethnicities are celebrating St. Patrick's Day!