Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the annual feast day celebrating a patron saint of Ireland.
St. Patrick was born around the year 385, in a village in Wales. When he was 16, a group of Irish pirates raided his village and took many of the young men back to Ireland to work as slaves. Patrick worked for six years as a herdsman in the Irish countryside. In his sixth year, he escaped and made his way back to Wales. But, according to his autobiography, soon after he got back home he heard a voice telling him to go back to Ireland and convert the Irish to Christianity. That’s eventually what he did, but first he went to France to visit monasteries and study religious texts. After 12 years in France, he went back to Ireland, where he founded monasteries, schools, and churches and converted much of the island to Christianity.
Parades are a large part of the day’s celebrations, and New York City’s is the largest in the world, with the 69th Infantry Regiment leading 150,000 marchers up Fifth Avenue.
The marchers will include firefighters, police officers, emigrant societies, New York politicians, high school bands, and community service organizations. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York was on March 17, 1762. Boston has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since 1737. And since 1961, Chicago has been dyeing its river green for the holiday.
The city of Dublin is a relative newcomer to the huge parade festivities, but the celebration there has been taking off in recent years. Dublin’s first St. Patrick’s Day Festival was held in 1995 to boost tourism. Since then, the parade has grown into a weeklong event that includes a symposium with lectures on Ireland’s economic success, issues of Irish identity, and the future of the Irish state. About 500,000 people turn out to witness the Dublin parade.