Every year around March 17th, nearly 600,000 people crowd the streets of South Boston for one of the city’s biggest celebrations: St. Patrick’s Day. This Irish Catholic holiday is over 1,000 years old, and honors the patron saint and founder of Christianity in Ireland, St. Patrick. Boston, the birthplace of St. Patrick’s Day in the United States, has a long-standing tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parades and festivities.
The first ever public celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in America took place in Boston in 1737, at a time when Massachusetts was still one of the thirteen colonies under British rule. Soon after that, patriotism among Irish immigrants to the United States grew stronger and the celebration spread to several American cities. During the time of the Great Potato Famine in 1845, the holiday became a show of strength for the Irish immigrants in America in response to the hardships they had to endure in coming to the United States. The American Protestant majority despised the Irish immigrants, most of whom were the one million poor and uneducated Irish Catholic immigrants who escaped the Great Famine.
Today, 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated by Christians and non-Christians throughout the country. Popular St. Patrick’s Day activities include attending parades and festivals, and enjoying Irish food and drink. And be sure to wear green, or someone might pinch you! Boston, having the highest percent of people of Irish descent in the United States, holds one of the most popular St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in America. The city is home to more Irish pubs than any other place in the US, and boasts one of nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades. Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the highlight of the festival, and showcases more than 50 bagpipe and marching bands, colorful floats, and more. In addition, the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day are filled with performances by Boston’s very own Irish music artists and performers, as well as opportunities to find the best corned beef and Celtic Ale around. St. Patrick’s Day is just one of the days in which Americans can celebrate their ethnic heterogeneity, something of which they are very proud.