Around the world, St. Patrick’s Day parades are falling victim to the corona virus. Amid fears of people spreading the covid 19 virus, parade organizers are cancelling the traditional event. Even Ireland’s capital has cancelled its parade, which draws massive crowds from around the world. But if it seems unprecedented, our memories are short. This is not the first time Dublin’s Paddy’s Day parade has been cancelled, and we were acknowledging our patron saint’s feast day without parades for a long before the idea spread from the USA to Ireland.
That’s right – the St. Patrick’s Day parade is an American invention, not an Irish one. It can make you wonder about the history of the day and how it has been celebrated at different times, so we were inspired to create a wee timeline to look at important moments and changes in the history of St. Patrick’s Day. This doesn’t include every single first, just some highlights of the day all the world embraces the shamrock.
c387 AD – Patrick is born in Britain to Roman parents.
C402 AD – Patrick is kidnapped by pirates and sold into servitude in Ireland. After six years, he escaped and return to his family home. But he felt called by God to return to Ireland. Famously, he did and converted the nation to Christianity using the shamrock to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity.
C461 AD – Patrick dies on March 17th, which becomes his feast day. He is believed to be buried in Downpatrick, County Down in Northern Ireland.
Early Celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day
Late 600s – Biographies of Patrick are written by Muirchú and Tírechán.
Early 1600s – Patrick’s feast day is placed on the liturgical calendar. This made it a holy day of obligation, meaning that Catholic were obliged to attend mass. For centuries, it remained a sombre religious day in the middle of Lent.
1601 – An Irish missionary priest in Florida, then a Spanish colony, organized the first St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was held in the city of St. Augustine. Records are not clear about how many years the city held a parade, but it was not many.
American Origins of St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations & Parades
1737 – Boston holds its first St. Patrick’s Day festival, which does not include a parade.
1762 – New York City holds its first St. Patrick’s Day parade. It features Irish soldiers serving in the British military.
1771 – Philadelphia hosts its first St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
1780 – General George Washington allows his troops to take March 17th off to celebrate. This event is known as the St. Patrick’s Day Encampment.
1824 – Savannah, Georgia has its first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
1843 – Chicago, Illinois hosts its first Paddy’s Day parade.
1852 – San Francisco, California has its Patrick’s Day parade.
Finally, a Holiday in Ireland
1903 – The Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act, introduced by James O’Mara, makes St. Patrick’s Day an official holiday in Ireland. O’Mara also introduced another act requiring pubs to close on the day, which remained in force until the 1970s. Waterford holds Ireland’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
1931 – Dublin has its first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
1952 – The Irish ambassador to the USA leaves a box of shamrock at the White House for President Harry Truman, who is away at the time. Shamrock has been presented to the American president annually ever since.
1956 – Taoiseach John Costello travels to Washington, D.C. to present the shamrock, which had been done by ambassadors previously.
1962 – Local authorities dye the Chicago River Green for the first time.
1971 – Washington, D.C. holds its first St. Patrick’s Day parade.
2001 – Parades are cancelled in Dublin and throughout Ireland due to the risk of spreading foot and mouth disease, which was affecting livestock around Ireland and creating serious losses for farmers.
2010 – Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand become the first public buildings illuminated in green light to celebrate Paddy’s Day.
2019 – Half a million people attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin while the rest of the nation watches the live broadcast on television.
While parades are a beloved St. Patrick’s Day tradition, they are not the only way to celebrate Irishness on our patron saint’s feast day. No doubt people around the world will find fun, creative and safe ways to wear their green and enjoy the day this year!