Today’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations have been greatly influenced by those that descended from the Irish, especially in North America where there was was often a bigger celebration among the diaspora than there was in Ireland.
Patrick was a 5th-century missionary and bishop in Ireland, who was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland at the age of sixteen.
After six years working as a shepherd, during which time he “found God” who told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home.
After making his way home, Patrick became a priest. Then, he returned to Ireland and spent many years evangelising in the northern half of the country, where he converted thousands of people to Christianity.
Known as the “Apostle of Ireland”, Patrick is the primary patron saint of Ireland.
Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, and they regard him as the founder of Christianity in Ireland, converting a society practicing a form of polytheism. He has been generally so regarded ever since, despite evidence of some earlier Christian presence in Ireland.
Patrick’s efforts against the druids were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove “snakes” out of Ireland (Ireland never had any snakes).
Most available details of his life are from sources considered to be unreliable but the legend of his life remains popular folklore and one Irish scholar, Thomas Francis O’Rahilly, suggested in 1942 that the events attributed to his life were actually the work of two Saint Patricks.
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the Big Apple’s greatest traditions. The first parade was on March 17, 1762 — fourteen years before the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence — comprised of a band of homesick, Irish ex-patriots and Irish military members serving with the British Army stationed in the colonies.
It was also a time when the wearing of green as a sign of Irish pride was banned in Ireland.
In that 1762 parade, participants reveled in the freedom to speak Irish, wear green, sing Irish songs and play the pipes to Irish tunes that were meaningful to the Irish immigrants of that time.
Today, the parade marches up 5th Avenue, starting at 44th Street at 11am proceeding up to 79th Street, and is reviewed from the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
Since it began, this tradition of marching past St. Patrick’s Cathedral has remained unchanged with the exception of the address. Throughout the day along the parade route, millions of spectators are expected to celebrate.
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