St. Patrick's Day is Thursday and across the United States and beyond people will be wearing green, drinking whiskey and celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. But Florida has a special historic connection to the holiday, the Washington Post reports.
Just a few years ago a historian at USF named J. Michael Francis reportedly stumbled upon was going through Spanish colonial records and artifacts when he came across evidence that on March 17, 1601, a parade was held in St. Augustine in honor of who the Spanish called San Patricio, the first known Saint Patrick's Day parade in what later became the USA.
This was centuries before Ireland's Great Famine brought so many to the U.S., but Francis discovered a former Irish soldier turned priest in St. Augustine known as Padre Ricardo Artur was likely responsible, the Post said.
While the first known parade was in Florida, Francis said the parades appeared to have died along with Artur before being revived in much more recent history.
According to history.com, homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in Boston in 1737 and in New York City on March 1762, and the holiday became more and more prominent over the years due to an influx of Irish immigrants to the U.S. in the mid-19th century.
Saint Patrick himself lived during the fifth century and was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at age 16. He escaped but later is credited with returning to Ireland and bringing Christianity to its people.
He is believed to have died on March 17, 461 and his legendary status in Ireland grew over the centuries.
Among the legends is that he explained the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) using the three leaves of a native Irish clover, the shamrock.
History.com says New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade is the world's oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with nearly 3 million people lining the route every year.
But here in Florida, rest assured Floridians will be donning their green Thursday in celebration of Saint Patrick and the centuries-old Irish tradition. Padre Ricardo Artur would be proud to know the holiday is going strong in the Sunshine State.