Contrary to Napoleon folklore, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated prior to the arrival of the Downey family in the River City.
St. Patrick’s Day 2023 will take place this Friday. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for more than 1,000 years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle.
Back to the Downeys: The holiday is more special to them since their mother, Patricia Lawler Downey, was born on March 17.
Homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in New York City on March 17, 1772 to honor the Irish patron saint. Enthusiasm for the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City, Boston and other early American cities only grew from there.
Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called “Irish Aid” societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums.
In 1948, President Harry S. Truman attended New York City‘s St. Patrick’s Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish Americans whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in the New World.
In 1970, I was able to attend the New York parade on St. Patty’s Day. I was living in nearby New Jersey at the time, working for Bell Laboratories, so I decided to take in the parade, and I even found myself an Irish tavern and had a few green beers. One of the patrons, dressed in his Irish greens, even went table to table, dancing a jig for the customers.
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