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The Wearing of the Green: St. Patrick's Day in America

Being of Irish decent, the Irish presence in America fascinates me. From those who immigrated as a result of the Great Potato Famine in the mid 1800s to the lottery immigrant system of today, the Irish contribution to American culture is as great as it is sorted.

Perhaps the most famed aspect of Irish culture in America is the celebration of Saint Patrick's Day. Ironically more "American" than "Irish", St. Paddy's Day has become a day of wearing green, thoughts of leprechauns, and most importantly a day when "everyone's Irish".

The Story Behind St. Patrick...

March 17th marks the holiday (holy day) for Saint Patrick, who is attributed to converting the Irish to Christianity from paganism in the 400s AD. Rumor has it that Saint Patrick used a shamrock, which resembles a clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the holy Trinity- the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The first American celebration was held in 1737 in Boston, Massachusetts. Celebrations increased with Irish immigration to America-over 100 U.S. cities now hold parades in honor of the Irish and Saint Patrick.

What About the Snakes?

Yes, it is Saint Patrick that legend has it drove all the snakes from Ireland. One author's explanation of the tale is that the snake was a revered pagan symbol; the removal of snakes became a figurative tale of paganism being driven out of Ireland.

Corned Beef and Cabbage-Irish or American?

Believe or not, corned beef is an American tradition, not an Irish one. Historically, Ireland is a very poor country (although quite prosperous now) and beef was a rarity on the dinner table.

More access to beef, even to the poor, was available in the United States, and such the tradition of beef started in American Irish neighborhoods.

Ironically, many of the Irish-borne immigrants that I have had the pleasure of meeting have never had corned beef until coming to America, and some even deny its existence on "the Isle of Eire".

Would you like to find out more? Some of the information contained on this page came from

A Wee Bit O' Fun

Also visit the following sites:

The Irish Flag An educational page on the symbolism of the Irish Flag

Irish History on the Web A beautiful page full of Irish history and information

Fiddler's Green "A site dedicated to Ireland, Irish Culture and the Irish Presence in Newfoundland"

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