St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, March 17th, a day to celebrate Irish history, heritage and culture. The day began as an Irish religious feast day honoring their patron saint, Patrick. Today, it is an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, food and music. March 17th is the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the late 5th century. St. Patrick was actually not a native Irishman. He was born in a noble family in Britain and at the age of 16 was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders. After Patrick escaped from his captors a few years later, he returned to England and joined the church. He went back to Ireland to convert the Irish pagans to the Roman Catholic Church. The Irish have observed St. Patrick’s Day since the 9th or 10th century as a religious holiday with solemn trips to church, since the day lands in the middle of Lenten season.
Irish immigrants brought their traditions to America in the 1700 and 1800’s. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in 1762 in New York City as British troops marched a few blocks to a local pub on March 17th. The first major St. Patrick’s parade was held in Savannah, Georgia in 1813 and is still held today. There are more than 100 parades held in cities around the world to honor St. Patrick’s Day. The largest parades in the United States are held in New York City, Boston and Savannah. New York City’s parade is the largest with over 150,000 participants and 3 million spectators. The Irish government joined in the joyous celebrations in 1995 with parades, concerts and fireworks. According to the History Channel, there are over 34.7 million people in the United States with Irish ancestry, which is 7 times more than the current population of Ireland!
The Washington D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia area has many St. Patrick’s Day events. The city of Alexandria kicked off the celebrations on March 1st with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Gaithersburg Maryland hosts the 14th Annual Gaithersburg St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 15th with dozens of participating groups including Irish dancers, pipe bands, equestrian units and more. Baltimore’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is Sunday, March 16th. The parade starts at 2pm. The Shamrock 5K immediately precedes the parade with a 1:15pm start time. Both events start at the Washington Monument. The parade marches down North Charles Street to the Inner Harbor and will include many Irish organizations, pipe bands, dancers and other participants. The 43rd Annual Washington D.C. St. Patrick’s Day Parade is also on Sunday, March 16th. The 2 ½ hour parade marches along Constitution Ave from 7th to 17th Streets NW. The parade includes floats, marching bands, pipe bands, dancers, military and police and fire departments. To keep the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations going, the National ShamrockFest takes place March 22nd from 3-11pm at RFK Stadium. The “Irish Street Festival” features 30 bands and DJs on 7 stages. There are also midway rides and games, strolling entertainment, Irish vendors in the Irish Village, food and beverages. No matter how you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day throughout this weekend, enjoy, have fun and be safe! Slainte!