Friday, March 17 — This is a day when people of all ethnicities are cheerfully encouraged to wear something green. It is St. Patrick’s Day, a rare national holiday observed outside its native land. The day honors Bishop Patrick, born in England, who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century, using a shamrock to illustrate divinity.
The celebration here goes back to Colonial times. New York City’s parade has taken place every year since 1762, and today is the largest such event in the nation.
The greatest number of Irish immigrants arrived in the U.S. in the middle of the 19th century, when the home country was reeling from the potato famine. Now, nearly 33 million Americans claim Irish descent, nearly seven times the population of Ireland itself.