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Mar 17, 2020

St. Patrick may be the patron saint of Ireland, but many St. Patrick’s Day traditions were born in the United States.

Every March 17, the US becomes an emerald country for a day.

Americans wear green clothes and quaff green beer. Green milkshakes, bagels and grits appear on menus. In a LEPRECHAUN -worthy shenanigan, Chicago even dyes its river green.

Revelers from coast to coast celebrate all things Irish by hoisting pints of Guinness and cheering bagpipers, step dancers and marching bands parading through city streets. These familiar annual traditions weren’t imported from Ireland, however. They were made in America.

In contrast to the merry-making in the United States, March 17 has been more holy day than holiday in Ireland.

Boston has long staked claim to the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the American colonies. On March 17, 1737, more than two dozen Presbyterians who emigrated from the north of Ireland gathered to honor St. Patrick and form the Charitable Irish society to assist distressed Irishmen in the city. The oldest Irish organization in North America still holds an annual dinner every St. Patrick’s Day.

Historian Michael Francis, however, unearthed evidence that St. Augustine, Florida, may have hosted America's first St. Patrick’s Day celebration. While researching Spanish gunpowder expenditure logs, Francis found records that indicate cannon blasts or gunfire were used to honor the saint in 1600 and that residents of the Spanish garrison town processed through the streets in honor of St. Patrick the following year, perhaps at the behest of an Irish priest living there.