St. Patrick’s Day
- About 125 million people in the United States celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 2016. Wearing green is one of the most popular ways people celebrate the holiday (Source: National Retail Federation, March, 2016).
- Americans spend about $4.4 billion celebrating St. Patrick’s Day (Source: National Retail Federation, March 2016).
- Hallmark began producing St. Patrick’s Day cards in the early 1920s.
Always observed on March 17
History and legend intertwine to create the story of St. Patrick; however, the only definite statement that can be made about St. Patrick’s life is that he was not Irish. As far as anyone has been able to determine, St. Patrick was a Britannic Celt who was reared as a Roman Catholic. It is not known whether March 17 was the birth or death date of St. Patrick; it may be neither.
St. Patrick is best known for driving the snakes out of Ireland. The snake was a pagan symbol, so this Irish folk tale may allude to St. Patrick driving paganism out of Ireland.
The first American St. Patrick’s Day celebration appears to have been in Boston in 1737. The custom was begun by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, a Protestant organization founded that year to help needy Irishmen. The first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland but in the United States, when on March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City.
Over time, the rich traditions of the Irish have been embraced as part of the U.S. cultural heritage, and while it remains a festive holiday, St. Patrick’s Day has become an occasion to honor and celebrate the Irish culture.