March 16, 2017

#05-018: St. Patrick's Day

photo of parade with a large figure of a bishop in green, numerous flags, marchers in tams and kilts; banner reading "cead mile failte / a hundred thousand welcomes"
St. Patrick's Day in Montreal

Note: The long-standing tradition of St. Patrick's Day has evolved into a full-blown "Irish-American Heritage Month" throughout March.

Get Ready: Have you ever seen a St. Patrick's Day parade--or been pinched for not wearing green?

Check out some Irish words used in English in Lesson #01-085!

The United States has a number of holidays associated with various countries and ethnicities. Some of them, like Martin Luther King's birthday (associated with Black Americans, though he helped people of all races) and Columbus Day (started by Italian-Americans) are official holidays, with days off for many people. Others, like Cinco de Mayo (a celebration associated with Mexico) are simply excuses for parties.

St. Patrick's Day, or "The Feast of St. Patrick" on March 17, falls into this latter category. You wouldn't know it wasn't official, though, if you lived in New York City, where the first St. Patrick's Day observance (though not yet a parade) was held in 1762--fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence! Today, 150,000 people typically march in the parade, with over two million spectators.

Though it's America's oldest and largest (and in fact the largest in the world), New York's parade is far from the only such celebration. Dozens of cities hold similar, though smaller, celebrations, the largest being in Chicago with about a million in attendance; Boston, with 600,000 to one million; and other cities from San Francisco and Philadelphia to New London, Wisconsin, where the parade began as recently as 1984.

But celebrations go beyond these parades in various cities. March has been declared "Irish-American Heritage Month" either by Congress or the President every year since 1991.

Overwhelmingly, the color of St. Patrick's Day is green. Some say this is because Saint Patrick used the green-colored "shamrock" or three-leafed clover to teach the doctrine of the trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Patrick (385-461 CE) was the saint credited with converting Ireland to Christianity after having been held there as a slave for six years.

A more mundane reason is that green was associated with the Irish nationalists--all Catholic--in opposition to the Protestants who supported the 17th-century English King William III, known as "William of Orange." When I was a schoolboy, anyone who wasn't wearing green could be pinched by other kids, as could anyone who was wearing orange. (Even though few of us were of Irish descent, or even knew why!) Savvy teachers would keep little shamrocks made of green paper on hand to pin on those without green, heading off any trouble.

Other "greenings" include the dyeing of beer, foods, fountains, and--in Chicago--an entire river!


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. converting
  2. descent
  3. doctrine
  4. ethnicities
  5. heritage
  6. mundane
  7. nationalists
  8. overwhelmingly
  9. savvy
  10. spectators

  1. changing the beliefs of
  2. people who watch an event
  3. clever; knowing
  4. ordinary; common
  5. with a huge majority
  6. the body of traditions passed down from ancestors
  7. a religious teaching
  8. people fighting for national independence
  9. groups sharing a common culture, religion, language, etc.
  10. coming down from ancestors

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 16, 2017

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. j; 3. g; 4. i; 5. f; 6. d; 7. h; 8. e; 9. c; 10. b