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It's a bit o' the Irish. A St. Patrick's Day Parade Spectator, Chicago, IL

St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He basically converted Ireland to Christianity - he traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish country to Christianity. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

The annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.

Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of all backgrounds in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Although North America is home to the largest productions, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in other locations far from Ireland, including Japan, Singapore, and Russia.

Last year, close to one million people took part in Ireland 's St. Patrick's Festival in Dublin, a multi-day celebration featuring parades, concerts, outdoor theater productions, and fireworks shows.

The history of the Irish in Chicago goes back to the days when the city was little more than an outpost on the prairie shores of Lake Michigan. The Irish in Chicago have produced eight mayors (including the two Mayor Dalys) and many bishops. But they are also who built and enlivened the city: the policemen, firemen, priests, nuns and brothers, tavern owners, educators, transit workers, musicians, and ward politicians made good, and the north, south, and west side neighborhoods and parishes they inhabited.

Information from St. Patrick's Day and from the History Channel and Chicago's St. Pat's Parade and the Chicago Historical Society.

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Additional Photos by Ken Ilio (flip89) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 537 W: 173 N: 576] (3418)
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