This day in history, March 17, 1762, the first parade honoring the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was held by Irish soldiers serving in the British army.
Saint Patrick was born in the late 4th century and was one of the most successful Christian missionaries in history. Born in Britain to a Christian family of Roman citizenship, he was taken prisoner at the age of 16 by a group of Irish marauders who attacked his family’s estate. The marauders took him to Ireland, where he spent six years in captivity before escaping back to Britain after hearing a voice in his sleep telling him to return home.
In a separate dream, he was told to return to Ireland and Christianize the country. He joined the Catholic Church and studied for 15 years before being consecrated as the church’s second missionary to Ireland. Patrick began his mission to Ireland in 432, and by his death in 461, the island was mostly all Christian.
Since his death on March 17, 461, the Irish have observed the day as a holiday. Those celebrating go to church in the morning, then eat and drink in the afternoon. Early Irish settlers to the American colonies, many of whom were indentured servants, brought the Irish tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s feast day to America.
The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was held not in Ireland, but in New York City in 1762. With the drastic increase of Irish immigrants entering the United States in the mid-19th century, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration became widespread.