Fri March 15, 2013
Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. In the centuries following Patrick's death (believed to have been on March 17, 461 A.D. ), the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.
Since around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. Interestingly, however, the first parade held to honor St. Patrick's Day took place not in Ireland but in the United States. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
Over the next 35 years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called "Irish Aid" societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies)
In 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one official New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world 's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly 3 million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and cities in the Lehigh Valley also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants each.
This Saturday, March 16th, the 3rd annual Parade of Shamrocks steps off in Bethlehem at 1pm. On Sunday March 17th, the Lehigh Valley’s Oldest Irish Celebration happens in Allentown with a 1:30 step off time.
To read more about St. Patrick’s Day Parades and events, look for Celtic Classic on Facebook for links to the Celtic Cultural Alliance Education Blog. Additional research and ideas for further exploration of resources in the Lehigh Valley are gathered there. For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White.