2013-03-01 / Community

St. Patrick’s Day facts & figures

St. Patrick’s Day is enjoyed by millions of people, including those of Irish descent and even those with no connection to Ireland. A day of celebration, music and parades, St. Patrick’s Day also has a unique history. The following are some interesting facts and figures about St. Patrick’s Day that might help explain its popularity. * St. Patrick’s Day is annually celebrated on March 17, which means the holiday falls during the Christian season of Lent, when many practicing Christians abstain from eating meat. However, these Lenten prohibitions of meat are typically lifted on St. Patrick’s Day, when celebrants are allowed to indulge in traditional Irish meals which may include Irish bacon.

* St. Patrick is not actually of Irish descent. Born in the fifth century, St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain and only brought to Ireland as a slave when he was a teenager. He would eventually escape from captivity, but later he returned to Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people upon his return. * People in Ireland have been celebrating the feast day of St. Patrick on March 17 since sometime during the ninth or tenth century. The feast day is celebrated on March 17 because St. Patrick is believed to have died on March 17, 461.

* Though the Irish have been celebrating the feast day of St. Patrick for centuries, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in the United States and not in Ireland. In 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17 in commemoration of St. Patrick. Despite those humble beginnings, today the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest parade in the United States, with more than 150,000 participants.

*Nearly35millionU.S.residents claim Irish ancestry. That number is seven times the population of Ireland. Twenty-three percent of Massachusetts residents trace their ancestry to Ireland. * The U.S. Census Bureau notes that there are more than 144,000 current U.S. residents who were born in Ireland. * Irish soda bread, a dish enjoyed by millions each St. Patrick’s Day, gets its unique name from the use of baking soda instead of yeast as a leavening agent.

* Though many assume corned beef is a traditional Irish dish, it’s not. In fact, corned beef was used by Irish immigrants in New York City as a substitute for Irish bacon, which was more expensive.

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