While many celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day take place along parade routes and in pubs, the holiday has not always had such a festive history.
Father Bill Quinlivan is the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in the Town of Tonawanda, and was recently voted Irishmen of the Year by the Knights of Equity. He says Saint Patrick’s Day has long been a more solemn day in Ireland where, up until 1970, laws required pubs to be closed on the 17th of March for religious observances.
Quinlivan says today’s better-known festivities can actually be attributed to one of his favorite Irish singers, Bing Crosby.
“He popularized a lot of the American notions of Saint Patrick’s Day, with the parades and things like that. It’s not exactly the way they’ve always celebrated it over in Ireland. It’s always been more of a religious holiday and a solemn day. They do have parades now, but they tell me that’s mostly for the tourists who come expecting it,” Quinlivan said.
Quinlivan says Saint Patrick was known for converting people to Christianity and driving the snakes out of Ireland. For American Irish, Quinlivan feels that the connection to Saint Patrick has to do with the meaning of their faith. He says it’s a time to reflect on the struggles of their ancestors in times of persecution.