How St. Patrick’s Day Became the Most Global National Holiday

TIME

Even though St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, parades and revelry in his name will ensue worldwide on Tuesday. The holiday’s popularity is global, spreading far past the Emerald Isle to cities with very few ethnic Irish people. There’s no obvious explanation for why Ireland’s national day is celebrated so broadly instead of, say, Bastille Day, the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo.

As historian and Dublin-based Boston College professor Michael Cronin explains, the modern version of the holiday is largely an American export, celebrations gaining popularity as Irish immigrants asserted their cultural and political presence in American society. Parades in the U.S. started cropping up in the 1800s, but in Dublin, Cronin says, you wouldn’t have seen that kind of celebration until around the 1990s.

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Now, decades later, the wearing of the green is an international tradition — but each location’s history uniquely informs…

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