Join us for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Céad Míle Fáilte and welcome to your Letter from Ireland. I’m writing this letter on the day most associated with Ireland and the Irish all over the world - March 17th - St. Patrick’s Day.

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Join us for a St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you, your family and friends. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh! (law ay-leh pawd-rig sunna deeve).

I’m sipping on a cup of green tea as I write (I know, I just had to) and hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.

Join us on a St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

When myself and Carina were young children back in the 1960s, Saint Patrick’s Day was always a welcome day of celebration in the middle of Lent. For us children, it was a rest day from the austerity of Lent, usually with a grand feast and plenty of sweets planned for the day. But first, our parents decked us out in green with showers of shamrock and then off to mass as a family followed by “the parade”.

Truth be told, the parade was a little on the drab side back then – mostly containing local businesses who advertised their wares and service from the back of a barely-decorated truck. How things have changed down through the years!

Let’s now have a look at how those St. Patrick Day parades started and share some of our own favourite St. Patrick’s day experiences down through the years.

Saint Patrick and the Irish Identity.

It is generally agreed that Patrick lived sometime during the fourth or fifth century – but was certainly canonised as a saint in 1631 with March 17th established as his feast-day. Now, you know by now that the Irish love a good party but the church rules on austerity surrounding the 40 days of Lent leading into Easter provided quite a challenge to our natural inclination to celebrate. So, by the early 1700s St. Patrick’s Day was appropriated in Ireland as a “break day” during Lent – at least until things were considered out of control in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church. The hierarchy of the church wanted to remind Irish people that Saint Patrick’s Day was not all about partying and were keen to reacquaint us with the more religious aspects of the day. One of the things they introduced was the story of how the shamrock acted as key symbol for the teachings of Patrick. And so, the shamrock entered into modern times as a symbol of St. Patrick and all things Irish.

The First Parades and the “Wearing of the Green”.

In 1762, the first New York Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place. It was arranged for Irish soldiers serving in the British army as a way of helping them assert their national identity while far from home. At that time, the colour blue was most associated with Saint Patrick and various Irish flags. However, by the time of the 1798 risings in Ireland, green was chosen as the colour to signify a separate Irish identity from the reds, blues and whites of the British flag. The literal “wearing of the green” (also a song) became an important statement of Irish identity. Over time, Saint Patrick himself was rarely seen in a picture without plenty of green in his clothes and in the background – and of course, the shamrock came to signify a lot more than the story of the trinity.

As young children, Carina and myself did not realise the significance of wearing those sprays of shamrock – but I’m sure it meant a great deal to our parents and grandparents given all they had seen change around them throughout their lifetimes.

Since that time, Saint Patrick’s day and the associated parades have become a regular fixture both in Ireland and around the world. They are entertaining affairs with plenty of opportunity to participate. Sure, isn’t everyone Irish for the day?

Since we started this letter from Ireland and the Green Room, we have had the good fortune to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in a number of different locations with our Green Room members and readers- including Cork, Dublin, Skibbereen, Ellis Island and not forgetting that celebration “down there” in Melbourne, Australia.

These were all wonderful and memorable occasions and a reminder of the connection and shared values we have between the 80 million (or so) people of Irish descent all around the world.

How about you? Do you have a favourite Saint Patrick’s Day parade or celebration that you attend near your own home place? Do comment below and let us know.

For now – Happy Saint Patrick’s Day,

Slán until next week,

Mike and Carina.

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