March 17 is the feast day of Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick (385-461), in the Roman Catholic and Anglican calendars and a legal holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Montserrat. It is also widely celebrated by the Irish diaspora around the world, especially in Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States. The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick's Day was actually in Boston in 1737, and the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756.
In Ireland, many families attend parades and festivals that celebrate Irish culture. The largest parade is held in Dublin. However, towns and villages throughout the country also have their own parade in which local primary school students usually participate. Week long festivals of Irish visual and performing arts and music are held in many regions and many buildings of note turn green for the occasion.
In the United States, this day gives an opportunity to recognize the vital contributions of Irish Americans. "Rarely in world history has a nation so small had so large an impact on another," President Obama said. Long before the great wave of Irish immigration in the 1840s, people of Irish ancestry were defining and defending America. Charles Thomson, an Irishman by birth, served as Secretary of the Continental Congress and helped design the Great Seal of the United States. Irish-born Commodore John Barry fought for the country's independence and later helped found the United States Navy. Eight of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were Irish-Americans and half of American Presidents have been of Irish descent. Today, nearly 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry.
On Tuesday, March 19, President Obama will welcome Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny of Ireland to the White House. In the morning, the President will meet with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office, and subsequently he will attend the traditional St. Patrick's Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol. In the evening, the President and the First Lady will host a reception to celebrate their fifth St. Patrick's Day at the White House. During the reception, the President and Kenny will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony. It symbolizes the profound kinship between Ireland and the United States. According to records, the ceremony first began in 1952, when the Irish Ambassador John Joseph Hearne sent a box of shamrock to President Truman at the White House. President Truman was out of town at the time, but later sent Ambassador Hearne a message, in which Truman said that he hoped "relations between the two countries will continue to be on a good and effective level for generations." I encourage you to watch U.S. Embassy Dublin's video for more information on the history of the ceremony.
We at U.S. Embassy Dublin would like to wish a happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone celebrating in Ireland, in the United States, and all over the world.
Lá fheile Pádraig sona daoibh! (Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you!)