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U.S. celebrates Celtic history

Traditional Irish holiday honored, appreciated by many in community

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 12:03


St. Patrick’s Day has two sides to it.

On one hand there is the tradition rooted in Catholicism, hence the day named after a patron saint of Ireland.

But in America, the March 17 holiday is a more secular celebration of excessive alcoholic consumption and monochromatic accessories.

“You get drunk and wear green,” Contra Costa College Bookstore supply buyer Nick Dunn said.

St. Patrick’s Day was a feast day in honor of St. Patrick (367-461 A.D.), the man credited for bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle, but became a celebration of Irish culture in the 17th century. It has been celebrated in North America since before the Revolutionary War.

Although it falls during Lent, when Catholics fast from their particular indulgences, the church usually lifts restrictions on food and drinking alcohol for St. Patty’s Day. 

Wearing green and shamrocks replaced the color blue as symbols associated with the holiday. Those found not wearing green may be pinched or punched, some would argue affectionately, because of it.

Since 1852, San Francisco has hosted a St. Patrick’s Day parade down Market Street.

Because of the boom of the Gold Rush three years earlier, Irish-American settlers moved to California and were the largest ethnic group in the region for decades.

The 160-year-old parade is the 13th oldest in the country and the largest on the West Coast.

More celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day include corned beef feasts, dancing and other Gaelic festivities.

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