Saint Patrick’s Day not only serves as a celebration of all things Irish but also supports the continuation of its culture and helps reinforce a sense of pride, as well as identity, in the Irish people and their descendants. The observance originally started as a religious holiday to honor Saint Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the 5th Century and was later recognized as the patron saint of Ireland.
The world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade happened on March 17, 1762, in New York City and it featured Irish soldiers serving in the English military. It became an annual event and has become one of the most popular and celebrated events in the world. In 2012, nearly 35 million U.S. residents claimed ancestral roots to Ireland, which outpaces the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million) by more than seven times. New York State has approximately 2.5 million residents who claim Irish ancestry, which is among the most of any state. Additionally, nearly 23 percentage of Massachusetts residents claim Irish ancestry, which is among the highest in the nation. Moreover, Irish ranked second among most reported ancestry in the United States while German ancestry ranked as the first.
Saint Patrick’s Day helps support the continuation of its culture and reinforces a sense of pride, as well as identity, in the Irish people and their descendants. It is essential for mental health to have an identity that is stable, unified, coherent, and esteemed. However, given the tumultuous history of Ireland that has undergone dramatic changes over the last few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for the Irish to maintain a sense of pride and identity–either personal or national.
Other statistics of interest related to Irish ancestry, as of 2012, include over 150,000 people with Irish ancestry who were naturalized citizens, over 34 percent of people age 25 and over of Irish ancestry, who had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, 93.4 percent of Irish-Americans in this same age group had obtained at least a high school diploma. When these statistics were compared to the nation as a whole, the corresponding rates were 29.1 percent and 86.4 percent, respectively.
Another area of concern that has impacted the Irish culture and sense of pride and identity is the financial crisis following Ireland’s 2008 economic crash. In the wake of the crash, over 400,000 people have left Irish shores, from a population of just over 4.6 million. Additionally, almost 250 people continue to leave the country every day, prompting many to ask if Ireland has entered another period of mass exodus. Despite the mass emigration, the population of Ireland continues to flourish. This increase in population is due to new births and continued inward migration from areas including Central and Eastern Europe.
Saint Patrick’s Day helps support the continuation of its culture and reinforces a sense of pride, as well as identity, in the Irish people and their descendants. The holiday celebrates the country, its heritage, and fosters a sense of inclusion and acceptance. While the observance of the holiday has changed dramatically from its origins, it continues to cast the Irish culture in a positive and jubilant light and provides Irish-Americans with a sense of pride and identity via connection to their ancestral roots.
Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh