Though it began as a Catholic holiday to honor Saint Patrick, one of the most prominent Christian missionaries in history, Saint Patrick’s Day first made its way to the United States in the late 1700s, when an influx of Irish immigrants journeyed to the East Coast.
In Ireland, typical Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations resembled other religious holidays, with participants attending church, eating a special meal, and spending time with loved ones. But by the time the holiday made its way to America, it had changed significantly.
East coast cities like New York and Boston were flooded with a new group of people and a culture full of proud traditions that they wanted to continue to celebrate in their new home.
The first official Saint Patrick’s Day parade was in 1762, but it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that Irish-American populations grew strong enough for a call to celebrate the day on a citywide scale.
Still, it took nearly a century for the celebrations to involve non-Irish Americans, too. But by the 1960s and 1970s, parades, festivals, and other events began popping up in cities across the country.
The holiday is now one of the most widely celebrated and anticipated days of the year in America, and it is most often commemorated with parades and festivals, but also plenty of traditional Irish foods and drinks.
Cities that have held on to their strong population of Irish-Americans typically participate in days of events leading up to Saint Patty’s. Some, like Chicago (which dyes its river a vibrant green each year), have even taken to transforming parts of the city itself in honor of the day.
From coast to coast, Saint Patrick’s Day has now become one of America’s most exciting days of the year, and no matter how you choose to celebrate or where you live, you are bound to encounter a touch of green come March 17.