The Holidays Celebrated In Colonial America

St. Patrick's Day

{ The 17th of March }

  St. Patrick was born, according to his own account in the Confession in a small town on the river Clyde named Banavem Taberniae (possibly present-day, Dumbarton). Although St. Patrick did not provide many dates and details in his autobiography, many sources believe that he was born in the year 387. Other sources place the saint's birthdate in the year 373 and in the Welsh region of Pembrokeshire, specifically in the Vale of Rhos. Other sources, such as Jones, in his Historical Account Of The Welsh Bards, gives the birthplace as Caernarvonshire. Nearly all of the sources agree that his parents, Calphurnius and Conchessa raised their son, Maenwyn Succat, in the Christian religion. In his sixteenth year, Patrick was abducted by pirates and carried off to County Antrim, Ireland. There he was sold to a Celtic chieftain, Milchu, to serve as his slave. Patrick served six years tending Milchu's cattle before he made the decision to escape his servitude. He made his way south and gained passage on a ship sailing to the European continent. They landed somewhere on the coast of Gaul (i.e. present-day France), and Patrick made his way back to Scotland and his home. He had a vision that the Lord was calling him to become a missionary to the Irish. To achieve that end, Patrick traveled to Rome and received his apostolic benediction from Pope Celestine in 432, at that time taking the name of Patrick. By the year 433 St. Patrick was in Ireland converting the native peoples into Christians. He ministered to the Irish for thirty-some years. His death came on 17 March 463 according to many sources, 493 according to others, and he was buried in the province of Ulster at Downpatrick.

  A number of miracles have been attributed to St. Patrick. The most famous of St. Patrick's miracles was the driving of all the snakes out of Ireland. Whether this feat was truly a miracle effected by St. Patrick or if the Emerald Isle simply never had any indigenous snakes to begin with is debatable; but it is the most famous and loved legend about the saint.

  It is claimed that St. Patrick performed thirty-three miracles of resurrection, including the following example:

  St. Patrick was summoned to raise from the dead a man named Garbanus. But Garbanus was not actually dead. He, along with some friends who gave their devotion to Satan, intended to make a fool of St. Patrick, mocking his so-called ability to raise the dead in Christ's name. Machaldus, the leader of the evil band, had Garbanus lie on a couch and then covered him with a winding sheet as if he were dead. St. Patrick easily saw through the deceit and chose to walk away rather than entertain the crowd. When his friends pulled the shroud off of Garbanus' head, they found that he was indeed now dead. The revelation scared the friends, who chased after St. Patrick, begging him to return and raise their friend. St. Patrick relented and brought Garbanus back to life.

  The day celebrated as St. Patrick's Day honors the day on which he died: 17 March. It has been celebrated as a holyday / holiday ever since his death.

  St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated in America in 1737 in Boston, in the colony of Massachusetts~Bay. On that occasion, the Charitable Irish Society was established.

  St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated in the province of New York at Fort William Henry on Lake George in the year 1757. And the first known instance of a parade being conducted on the holiday was in 1766, also in New York, by Irish soldiers in the British Army.

  The first instance of St. Patrick's Day being celebrated in the province of Pennsylvania was in 1763 at Fort Pitt, the site of present day Pittsburgh.

  General George Washington was at Morristown, New Jersey in March, 1780. On the 16th of that month General Washington issued a General Order in which he noted: "The General congratulates the army on the very interesting proceedings of the Parliament of Ireland and of the Inhabitants of that Country which have lately been communicated; not only as they appear calculated to remove those heavy and tyrannical oppressions on their trade but to restore to a brave and generous People their ancient Rights and Freedom and by their operation to promote the cause of America. Desirous of impressing on the minds of the Army, transactions so important to their nature, the General directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for tomorrow the 17th., a day held in particular regard by the People of that nation. At the same time that he orders this he persuades himself that the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder. The officers to be at their quarters in camp and the troops of each state line are to keep within their own encampment."

  There were so many Irish immigrants making new homes in the American colonies, that the celebration of St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated moreso there than in Ireland itself. Many of the things that identified the Irish with Ireland were embraced and elevated to places of honor on the holiday by the immigrants.

  Perhaps the most renown of the objects by which Irish Americans could identify with their homeland was the shamrock. St. Patrick used the three-leaved plant to minister to the Irish pagans, explaining the doctrine of the Trinity with it. The shamrock would be placed singly, or in bunches, into the bands of one's hat, in the action known as "the wearing of the green."

  To many people, the highlight of the celebration of St. Patrick's Day is the food. Traditional dishes, including Irish Stew and Corned Beef & Cabbage, has been eaten on the holiday in just about every home from the Colonial Period to the present day.

  There is a saying that "On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish."