St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is not a legal holiday, but is widely celebrated by the over 40 million people of Irish background throughout the country. The largest parade in the United States (held every year since 1762) is the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, up Fifth Avenue and past, appropriately, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Over 100,000 New Yorkers march past more than a million spectators. Many other American cities celebrate, painting green center stripes up the streets for their parades; Chicago even dyes its river green for the occasion.
St. Patrick, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, is the most prominent patron saint of Ireland. While the day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, it is more widely celebrated by people of Irish origin in the United States, Australia and other English-speaking countries: the “Irish Diaspora.”
You do not have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States. Irish bars, and indeed most bars, commemorate the day with Irish beer, Guinness Stout, Irish whiskey, and traditional Irish dishes like corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew. Images of the Irish shamrock and the Celtic cross abound. Since the holiday, indeed the Irish nationality, is so heavily associated with the color green, many celebrants follow the custom of the “wearing of the green,” sporting green clothing and accessories like oversized plastic hats. On a cultural level, the celebrations for St. Patrick’s Day are heavily associated with the consumption of alcohol. It is indeed a busy day for bars and restaurants.
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