Saturday, March 15, 2008

St. Patrick's Day - An American Tradition

March 17 marks the feast day of Ireland's patron saint, Patrick. St. Patrick (386-461), a cleric in the Catholic sense, is credited with banishing Ireland of snakes, even though Ireland never had snakes. Because of this, St. Patrick's day is an official holiday in Ireland, but it is celebrated informally worldwide by people of every ethnic background.

The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the American Colonies was in Boston in 1737. These early celebrations were by men of wealth and means living in the colonies.

In the wake of American independence, many Irish Catholics from all walks of life were continuously lured to the United States with the promise of religious freedom. It was this movement that prompted St. Patrick's day to take on a more common man personae.

In 1827 restrictions on Irish emigration was lifted by Britain, and by 1835, more than 30,000 Irish immigrants were arriving in New York each year. These impoverished, uneducated immigrants established themselves quickly with their undying loyalty to their new country. The Irish came in droves and promptly joined the police and fire departments and railroad companies. To this day, many police officers, firemen, and railroad workers carry on the tradition of their forefathers by doing what their daddy did. Just look through the roster of any New York or Philadelphia police department or fire company and you'll see a plethora of Irish names.

As the number of Irish-Americans grew, so did the celebration of St. Patrick's day. Along wit hthis came the political power of the Irish communities in Boston, New York and Chicago. It was these political groups that helped get John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our nation's first and only Catholic President into office. This also explains the Boston Celtics and the Chicago River being dyed green during Chicago's St. Patrick's day celebration.

Many of the Irish in America used the March 17th celebrations as a platform for their American right of free speech. The 1970s brought a tone of political activism on St. Patrick's day with fundraising for Irish charities calling for the withdrawal of British occupancy in Northern Ireland. This brought the awareness of The Troubles in Northern Ireland to the United States.

For those that are unfamiliar with this conflict, Northern Ireland has been the site of a violent and bloody political conflict between Nationalist who want Northern Ireland to be part of the Irish Republic and the Unionists who wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Bono and Irish leaders during the Good Friday peace negotiationsThis activism is what prompted President Bill Clinton to invite those involved in the Irish conflict to Washington to negotiate peace, on St. Patrick's Day 1998. These talks resulted in the Good Friday Accord of April 10, 1998, which called for Protestants (Unionists) to share political power with the Catholics (Nationalists), and gave the Republic of Ireland a say in the affairs Northern Ireland.

And what would an Irish peace treaty be without Bono, pictured between David Trimble (left) and John Hume, respective leaders of Unionists and the Nationalists in a 1998 concer supporting the Good Friday agreement.

Clinton's action, is similar to the action's of Jimmy Carter at the Camp David Accords, where Muhammad Anwar al-Sadatand of Egypt and Menachin Begin of Israel were invited to Jimmy Carter's Camp David retreat to iron out their differences. The two countries did eventually find peace... here is the framework of that agreement.

PS - And here's a neat article on Green Beer, i.e. environmentally friendly breweries. Off the subject slightly, but worthy of a look-see.

Here's 1,001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History and A History of the Irish in America. St. Patrick

And finally, here's a candid picture of Ronald Reagan celebrating St. Patrick's Day. For more pics of Ronald Reagan, go to

President Ronald Reagan on st. Patrick's day

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