What is it about St. Patrick’s Day that makes everyone want to be Irish for a day? What started out as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has turned into a global festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.
Perhaps St. Patrick’s Day is cause for such celebration because it comes at a time when we all just want to escape the gloominess of the winter. Taking place just days before the Spring Equinox (first day of spring), a sea of green in mid-March may just be the inspiration we need to believe those warmer days are just around the corner! Bag pipes, parades, a green Chicago River, and just maybe a pint or two can certainly put anyone in a good mood – Irish or not! !
As surprising as it may seem, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade did not take place in Ireland, but in Boston in 1737, followed by New York City in 1767. With the influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th century, it was only a matter of time before Chicago held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade as well.
A mere 6 years after it became a city, in 1843, Chicago held its first – a mostly-Irish celebration at that time. By 1890 the population of Chicago was over a million people, and 17% of them were either Irish-born or had a parent born in Ireland. As the population grew, so did the parade. Today, 172 years after its start, the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade has become a long-standing, and very famous, tradition attended by an estimated 400,00 people each year.
The fervor for St. Patrick’s Day is something that has increased mainly due to American influence, and only in the latter half of the 20th century has it become how we know it today. The mythology of St. Patrick’s life, the legend of the leprechaun and the overall zeal for this particular day (not to mention tourism revenue!) has increased its popularity across the globe. There are St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations all over the world. From The Colosseum in Rome to Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, landmarks of the world have been known to go green for the day.
In Denmark, the famous Little Mermaid statue becomes the Little (green) Mermaid as she too joins in the celebration. It seems that everyone gets in on the fun! Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square in Copenhagen) is the center of Denmark’s St. Paddy celebration, with the parade beginning and ending here.
With another St. Patrick’s Day behind us, and springtime on its way, let’s hope some of that Irish luck brings warmer temperatures our way!