St. Patrick’s Day: A Celebration of A Saint

By Sheila Ferguson

The Tradition

St. Patrick’s Day is more than shamrocks, leprechauns, and green beer. On March 17, the day of his passing, we commemorate the life of Ireland’s Patron Saint. He was born in the fourth century A.D., long before the Catholic Church’s formation of the canonization process in 1643. St. Patrick is one of their most famous figures, and a saint by popular acclaim. Since 1842, Cleveland has hosted Ohio’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The History & Lore

In keeping with the Irish custom, the day has a deep spiritual meaning connected with St. Patrick’s love and sacrifice. He was born to a wealthy family. At 16, he was taken prisoner by Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. They held him in Ireland’s County Mayo area for six years. During captivity, he was awakened by God’s voice telling him to leave Ireland. To escape, he walked two hundred miles to the Irish coast. Once back home, an Angel told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Soon after, he engaged in religious studies and service for more than 15 years. (History Channel Vault, 2023).

He returned to Ireland as an ordained priest who committed to ministering to Christians and converting the pagans. Knowing the Irish language and culture helped him incorporate traditional rituals into his lessons on Christianity rather than attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. He honored the Irish practices of a nature-based pagan religion. In “The Lives of Saints” (1954), he is credited for using bonfires to celebrate Easter and creating the Celtic Cross. Finally, the Catholic Church praises him for opening the way for the legions of missionaries to come.

Cleveland’s Parade

Author and historian John Kuntz offers accounts from Cleveland’s Irish American Archives Society about the parade’s history. It indicates that the early celebrations began with Mass at St. Mary’s on the Flats and continued with a parade organized by the Catholic Temperance Society.

Cleveland’s 2023 Celebration

In keeping with tradition, our city’s 181st St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Friday, March 17, 2023. The festivities will begin at 1:04 p.m. at the intersection of Superior Ave. and East 18th Street. The parade will commence after hearing the American and Irish national anthems in honor of St. Patrick and Ireland. It is expected that there will be over 10,000 participants and two hundred volunteers in bands, marching units, floats, drill teams, dance troupes, and bagpipers, along with men donning kilts. (United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland, 2023).

Finally, author Ana Andrukh details some of the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s best-in-class sightlines as Superior Avenue between E. 9th Street and 12th Street. She says its endpoint will be at the corner of Rockwell and Ontario Street. Afterward, many parade-goers will join family and friends for a traditional home-cooked meal of corn beef and cabbage with soda bread, or perhaps lamb chops, mashed potatoes, peas, or an Irish stew. Others will join merrymakers at the local bars.

Additional References:

How St. Patrick’s Day Was Made in America

Saint Patrick: The Man, The Myth  on HISTORY Vault

Crawley, John J.  (1954) Lives of the Saints (1954) New York  p. 113-121

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