How Irish-American Pride Transformed St. Patrick’s Day

Filed in American Culture by on March 19, 2018 0 Comments


St. Patrick’s Day is seen as a tradition of celebrating Irish culture in cities across America. Americans of all races celebrate Irish pride with parades and parties where green beer flows and shamrocks can be spotted everywhere the eye can see. Nations around the world—even in Ireland where it began as a much smaller religious tradition—have borrowed many of their current traditions from America.

The holiday originated as a religious feast day that commemorated the death of St. Patrick in the fifth century. St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and consequently becoming the nation’s patron saint. This modest celebration of the saint was a quiet day for most Irish people, with only the elite feasting at a grand ball in Dublin Castle.

It wasn’t until St. Patrick’s Day crossed the ocean to America in the 19th century that it begun to transform into the holiday we know now. It arrived along with millions of Irish immigrants landing in America, who used St. Patrick’s Day to proudly recognize their heritage and push back against growing nativist opposition.

These localized events ultimately spread from Irish cities to broader, public celebrations across the United States, marking the rise of Irish-Americans in local governments. Soon, as more people claimed Irish heritage, these festivals, parades, and parties started to change into its current incarnation.

By the 20th century, the United States had basically claimed the holiday as its own, as both Irish descendants and non-Irish Americans celebrated alike. The spirit of the holiday, originally infused by Irish-American immigrants, was then re-imported back to Ireland itself.

Did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.