Everybody’s Irish On St. Paddy’s Day
Born in Roman Britain, in a town called Banna Venta Berniae – whose location is unknown, but is thought to be somewhere in Wales – Saint Patrick was a pagan shepherd who was captured by pirates and brought to Ireland when he was about 16 years old. Enslaved for six years, Patrick developed devotion to God, and eventually converted to Christianity. The future patron saint of Ireland escaped captivity and returned to England, but according to his later writings in the 7th century, the voice of God called him back to Ireland as a missionary. He obeyed and returned, baptizing thousands of all ages, from Celts to Basques, and performing miracles. According to one 12th century legend, Saint Patrick spoke to two ancient Irish warriors – Caîlte mac Ronaîn and Oisîn – and by using a shamrock, or three-leaf clover, to symbolize the Holy Trinity, converted them. He was a force in early Ireland for community and changes, reportedly taking time to settle disputes between neighbors and perform marriages, strove to free the oppressed, built many churches and educated the poor.
For over 250 years, New York City has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day as a commemoration, not only of the famed saint, but also of the Irish American community. Since their influx, Irish immigrants and Irish Americans have changed the face of New York, bringing with them the food, drink, and traditions of their culture that we all enjoy today. Boasting one of the largest Irish American populations in the country, New York City has long honored them, despite the fact that upon first arriving, the Irish were marginalized by society at large. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade was held in 1762, and is a tradition that has given life to several others, including, but not limited to, the St Pat’s For All parade right here in Queens. The phrase “everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” feels especially poignant here, in one of the most diverse places in the country, and calls to mind the core of Saint Patrick’s message.
Saint Patrick’s message is clear, and is one that this city has echoed time and time again: community and acceptance. Celebrate this year in the spirit of the holiday, when we all rally as Irishmen (real or pretend) together.