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Canada - St. Patricks Day

St. Patricks Day

This year: Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day, celebrated on March 17, is commonly known as a day to wear green colored clothes, drink traditionally Irish alcoholic beverages and have a good time. St. Patrick's Day has also become the occasion for some of the biggest parades in the world. However, until recently, St. Patrick's Day in Ireland was celebrated as a strictly religious holiday.

St. Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and is regarded as one of the patron saints of Ireland. He lived from 385 A.D. to 461 A.D., March 17 being considered the date of his death, and St. Patrick's Day is then celebrated. For many centuries the Irish did not celebrate St. Patrick's Day as the loud and alcohol-fueled holiday that it had become in the United States and Canada. It was not until 1970 that Dublin, Ireland allowed pubs to stay open on St. Patrick's Day. In the mid 1990's the Irish government began organizing the St. Patrick's Day Festival, first held in 1996 and eventually growing from a one day celebration to a five days long festivity in 2006. Now, for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, Ireland welcomes over a million tourists annually.

Some of the most common symbols of St. Patrick's Day have their origins in religion as well. For example, the 3-leaf shamrock was used by St. Patrick to explain to people about the holy trinity. Similarly, the symbol of the rod, or shillelagh, is associated to this holiday because St. Patrick used his rod to force all snakes out of Ireland and into the sea. Curiously, the original color associated with St. Patrick's Day was blue and not green. It wasn't until the 19th century that Ireland changed its national color to green in connection with Ireland being also known as the Emerald Isle.

In North America, parades traditionally have been a large part of St. Patrick's Day celebration. Boston is credited with having the first St. Patrick's Day parade in America in 1761. However, New York parade for St. Patrick's Day celebrations is the largest, drawing over 2 million spectators every year. Some of the other cities with long St. Patrick's Day traditions in America are Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Morristown, New Jersey.

In Canada, St. Patrick's Day finds its earliest roots in Montreal as far back as 1759. It was when Irish soldiers brought over by the British in the conquest of New France would celebrate St. Patrick's Day with their own parade and festivities. But these celebrations were not held every year. It was later in 1824 that Montreal has started the oldest continuous St. Patrick's Day tradition of organizing a parade each year on March 17. Toronto also holds a very large St. Patrick's Day parade which they call "one of the largest St. Patrick's Day parades in the world". As of now, the province of Newfoundland is the only government outside Ireland that recognizes St. Patrick's Day as an official holiday. United States do not recognize St. Patrick's Day as a national holiday either. Newfoundland has continuously fought for the official recognition of St. Patrick's Day as a national holiday by the federal government of Canada. However, so far, at a country level St. Patrick's Day is an official holiday only in Ireland.

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