Questioning Origins of St. Patrick’s Day Themes
Leprechauns, rainbows, parades, and beer are now some key factors in the modern St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. As much as we spend every March 17 blindly celebrating the holiday with these themes, have you ever stopped to think where all of these St. Patrick’s day themes came from? By looking back at the holiday’s history, one can ultimately find that public relations are the culprit for turning the originally Irish-Catholic holiday into the drunk green parades we now know and love.
Looking Back at the creation of St Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s day was first recognized by the Vatican in 1631 as those in Ireland had celebrated the “religious feast day that commemorates the death of St. Patrick,” the nation’s patron saint credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, who died in the fifth century (Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise). “For most Irish people at home, the day remained primarily religious into the 20th century,” and did not even become “a public holiday in Ireland until 1904”.
However, it was during this time in the 1900s that the holiday began to transform. During the 1920s – 1950s, the religious holiday was more somber with morning mass, a military parade, and closed bars. In the 1960s, the holiday began to become more exciting when celebratory parades began to replace the traditional military parades leading to the beginning of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival in 1966. The festival in Dublin, Ireland is more familiar to what we know now, including a “four-day event of music, treasure hunts, performances, and of course, on the day itself, a two-hour parade” that draws up to half a million people.
St. Patrick’s Day Traveling to the United States
Immigrants in the United States wanted to find a way to celebrate their pride “The first recorded celebrations of March 17 [in the United States] took place in Boston in 1737,” but it was not until 1766 when “the tradition of parading began amongst Irish Catholic members of the British Army in New York”. At the end of the civil war as more Irish immigrants came to the United States, and as the St. Patrick’s Day Festival began to surge in popularity in Ireland during the late 1960’s, Irish immigrants began to carry over their celebrations to the United States. This celebration was not only a tradition they carried from Ireland, but also a way to celebrate their culture as they were often stereotyped while in the United States.
Public Relations Using Holiday for Profit
In the 20th century, marketing and public relations firms began to take advantage of the annual festival taking place in the United States. Companies’ event planners could plan out promotional events surrounding the annual festival. Some examples of this you might see today are parades, bar crawls, concerts, and game nights. Public relations workers took it even further and began to create season product lines involving anything that was the color green. Seasonal clothing, foods, drinks, and alcohol are all some of the ways that marketers began to use the holiday to their advantage for promotional purposes. The main marketing actions that solidify the event as a national holiday rather than a yearly festival are the greeting cards that began to become mass produced throughout the nation during March. Ultimately, the timing, unique colors, and entertaining events associated with Saint Patrick’s day on March 17 all tied perfectly together to create a joyous, cultural celebration just as the weather begins to become nicer out leading up to spring.
The Strength of the Holiday
With the help of marketers and public relations professionals, St. Patrick’s day was able to stand the test of time on a national level. Beginning in the 1600s and a quiet religious holiday, festivals and marketers have transformed the holiday into the entertaining and joyous holiday we all know today. Although the original intent of public relations professionals may have been to profit off of the festivals, their actions lead to the continuous celebration of Ireland’s culture on a national level centuries after its origin in the 1600s.
All historical facts and statistics are outsourced from the “TIME” article “How America Invented St. Patrick’s Day” written by Zócalo Public Square on March 15, 2015. Zócalo Public Square is a magazine of ideas from Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise.