Once a religious holiday in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is now celebrated throughout the world with all things green, from shamrock shakes to green beer.
Conor Cuneen moved from Ireland to Naperville more than 13 years ago for work. Since then, he’s seen a big change in how folks observe Saint Patrick’s Day.
“When I was growing up, it was only a national, religious holiday. In fact, the pubs were closed so very little partying or anything was going on,” he said. “That did change maybe 20, 30 years ago, alright, but then you come over here and the place goes crazy, not just on Saint Patrick’s Day but two, three weeks beforehand [and] you wonder where all these Irish people coming from all of a sudden.”
Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick was not actually Irish but rather, historians say he came from Wales or Scotland. Either way, he was pivotal in converting the Irish to Christianity in the fifth century and for the last 1,000 years, the Irish have been honoring Saint Patrick on March 17th, the anniversary of his death in 460 A.D.
“He’s our patron saint, which is really quite quaint, he brought us the faith, made us holy and great, but Irish, Saint Patrick he aint,” said Cuneen.
Over the years, Saint Patrick’s Day observances have evolved to include festivals and parades around the world. In fact, members of the British Army held the first parade on American soil.
“It happened in 1762 we think in New York and there were Irish soldiers in the British Army. They wanted to celebrate something in their homeland. I think that was what set off the national holiday and the sentiment about Ireland in the U.S.”
Another fallacy about the Irish: The idea that the official color of Ireland’s government is green.
“Maybe green has become associated because Ireland is such a green country, but the official color of the Irish government is blue, a lot of people find that surprising and I’ve got to say, I did not know that until a couple of years ago.”
And how about the idea of drinking green beer?
“In Ireland, we never drink green beer – that would be sort of sacrilegious.”
In his book, “For the Love of Being Irish,” Cuneen uses humor and limericks to share a number of other tidbits about his homeland.
“It’s capitol city is Dublin where nothing is ever too troubling. Where its beer isn’t green but it’s great to be seen and the people of Dublin are bubblin’” And I think that sums up the Irish attitude and the Irish way of life,” said Cuneen.
To help spread that Irish cheer, the chap volunteers for the “West Suburban Irish,” which organizes the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade each year.
And the parade has a reached a special milestone this year.
The annual West Suburban Irish Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The 2013 Grand Marshall, Kevin Dolan, founded the event in 1993, when it had about 20 entries and marched from the VFW to the park district building.
Now it has grown to about 100 organizations demonstrating their Irish spirit and community involvement.
The parade kicks off at 10am on Saturday, March 16th. And we’ll have full coverage on our station. Visit www.nctv17.com for air times.
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