How St. Patrick’s Day Is More About Celebrating Home Than You May Realize
I remember it clearly: Heavy winds rustle the tricolored flags that hang ceremoniously from buildings as the parade marches through my neighborhood in Yonkers, New York. The steady cadence of drums and the bellowing skirl of bagpipes echo into the local Irish bar, where those dressed in green sip sudsy pints of colored ale and wolf down heaping globs of thinly-sliced corned beef and curly-leafed cabbage. Ah, St. Patrick’s Day.
The holiday has remained an important fixture for Irish-Americans to reconnect with home since 1762—my family and Irish community included. Beyond the green apparel and overflowing glasses of Guinness lies a deep history that connects generations back to their cultural roots and a sense of belonging.
Its origin dates back to the 18th century, when many Irish immigrants arrived to the American Colonies and sought to honor their homeland’s culture. Even after enlisting in the British Army, a large number elected to wear green vestments and to sing traditional folk songs in a series of organized marches, which is still carried out on March 17.
Yonkers local James Terry, an Irish-American whose grandparents emigrated from four respective counties, said, “It’s my favorite holiday of the year because of the fact that it brings my whole family together. My mother always held a [traditional Irish] breakfast the morning of the parade for all of our friends and family.”
For many, St. Patrick’s Day can be a celebration of certain Irish customs, like food, music, and sport. Others can appreciate its cultural transcendence, like first-generation Irish-American Natasha Tierney: “People feel connected to being Irish, and I think for a lot of people, it feels like they are a part of something. Having a parade is a big celebration to a community that they might not even be a part of, but they feel that they are.”
Regardless of one’s motivation, this day serves as a celebration for both Irish and Americans, embracing each other’s culture and religions. The traditions of home hold strong and has continued to shine in nearly every major American city through holding a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together, but also a chance for people that have Irish heritage and know people of Irish heritage to celebrate the best part about being Irish,” said Terry. According to him and so many others before him, it’s about “a lot of support, a lot of family, a lot of friends, a lot of brotherhood and sisterhood.” In other words, a lot of home.