History of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade

St Patrick

Saint Patrick, who lived during the fifth century, is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but returned to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people. In the centuries following Patrick’s death (believed to have been on March 17, 461), the mythology surrounding his life became ever more ingrained in the Irish culture: Perhaps the most well known legend is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.

Since around the ninth or 10th century, people in Ireland have been observing the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Patrick on March 17. Interestingly, however, the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland but in the United States. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

Irish Heritage with Police Officers and Firefighters

Following the great potato famine in Ireland during the 18th century many Irish immigrated to the United States of America, bringing their traditions with them. Work for these immigrants was often very difficult to find. Factories and shops displayed signs reading “NINA” meaning No Irish Need Apply. The only jobs they could get were the civil service jobs that were dirty, dangerous or both — firefighters and police officers — jobs that no one else wanted. Both of these careers were considered undesirable due to low pay, few benefits, and poor working conditions. The Irish gladly accepted these careers because it was a way to become a part of mainstream America, and it was a way to give back to their new country.

The Irish transformed the job of night watchman and fire watch into the organized police and fire departments we see today. Gradually, the Irish started many of the traditions that are still in existence today. The Irish-American police officers and firefighters would march in full uniform at various parades across the United States, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They were very proud of their Irish heritage, and equally proud of being a police officer or firefighter.

Now being a police officer or firefighter is a badge of honor and respect. Today, both professions continue to march in parades in full dress uniform to show their pride as part of this great country and serve as positive role models to the next generation of all nationalities.