1987 22¢ Best Wishes
US #2271 – Shamrocks are a type of three-leaf clover.

For centuries, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated on March 17, the date generally considered to be the day St. Patrick died in the year 461.  St. Patrick’s Day celebrations date back to the 9th or 10th century, but the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in North America in the 1600s!

St. Patrick is believed to have been born around the year 385 in Roman Britain (present-day Great Britain).  He was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest in the Christian church.  Despite this lineage, Patrick claimed that as a child he was not an active believer.  When he was 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders to work as a slave in Gaelic Ireland.  He spent six years there as a shepherd and during that time, he found God.

2008 Great Britain Celebrates Northern Ireland
Item #M10200 – Sheet of Great Britain stamps celebrating Northern Ireland includes a stamp for St. Patrick.

According to his own account, Patrick said that God told him to escape to the coast where a boat would be waiting to take him home.  Patrick traveled 200 miles to the coast and convinced a ship captain to take him home. Patrick made his way back to Britain and became a priest.  He then returned to Ireland to convert thousands of pagans to Christianity.

1922-23 Ireland
Ireland #65-76 – 1922-23 Ireland stamps picturing the Sword of Light, a map of Ireland, the Coat of Arms, and the Celtic Cross.

According to legend, Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity.  He compared the Holy Trinity (father, son, and holy spirit) to the three-leaved native Irish clover, the shamrock.  One of the most famous legends surrounding St. Patrick is the story that he banished all snakes from Ireland.  (However, naturalists and historians don’t believe there were ever any snakes for him to have banished.)

1960-63 Ireland
Ireland #173//90 includes a stamp honoring St. Patrick.
1937 Ireland stamp
Ireland #98 pictures St. Patrick

Patrick is believed to have died on or around March 17, 461.  By the seventh century, he was honored as the patron saint of Ireland and the “Apostle of Ireland.”  March 17 has been observed as St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic feast day since the ninth or tenth century.

Interestingly, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in present-day St. Augustine, Florida.  In 1601, the area was part of a Spanish colony.  The colony’s Irish vicar, Ricardo Artur, organized the first parade on March 17 of that year.  After his death, the tradition seemed to die with him.  Over a century later, Irish soldiers serving in the British military missed home and organized their own parades – in Boston in 1737 and New York City in 1762.

500 Ireland Commemoratives
Item #MP1543 – Get a large collection of 500 Ireland commemoratives for $350!

Over the years, Irish aid societies such as the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society began holding annual parades with bagpipes and drums.  Then in 1848, several of these groups joined together to establish New York City’s official St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It grew to be the largest and oldest civilian parade in the country, with more than 150,000 participants and three million attendees.

1999 Ireland
Ireland #1168 – Joint issue with the US commemorating Irish immigration to America

1999 33¢ Irish Immigration
US #3286 – US joint-issue stamp with Ireland

1999 Ireland #1168 - Irish Immigration
Item #AC40 – Ireland joint-issue First Day Cover

1999 33¢ Irish Immigration Classic First Day Cover
US #3286 – Classic First Day Cover

1999 33¢ Irish Immigration Mystic First Day Cover
US #3286 – Mystic First Day Cover

In the mid-1800s, some two million Irish emigrated to the US to escape the ravages of the potato famine.  They missed their home, so St. Patrick’s Day became a celebration of being Irish.  For many years, Irish immigrants struggled to gain acceptance in the US, ostracized for their religious beliefs.  As anti-Catholic discrimination decreased, they received greater acceptance, and soon, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations spread outside Irish circles.  Today, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated across the US and in countries around the world.

1981 18¢ James Hoban
US #1935 – 1981 James Hoban joint issue with Ireland

1981-83 Ireland
Ireland #493//558 – Ireland’s James Hoban stamp is included in this set.

1981 18¢ & 20¢ Hoban Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover
US #1935-36 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover with the Hoban US and Ireland stamps.

1981 James Hoban Ireland First Day Cover
Item #54973B – Ireland’s James Hoban First Day Cover

Did you know that corned beef and cabbage is an American tradition?  In Ireland, celebrants usually consumed ham and cabbage.  But when immigrants arrived in America, they found corned beef was the cheapest meat available.  They could buy it for a penny a pound from ships at New York’s South Street Seaport.  They boiled it three times to remove some of the brine.

1984 20¢ Performing Arts: John McCormack
US #2090 – John McCormack joint issue with Ireland

1984 Ireland - John McCormack (1884-1945), Singer
Ireland #594 – Ireland’s McCormack joint issue stamp

1984 Joint Issue - US and Ireland - John McCormack, Irish Tenor
Item #AC63 – Both US and Ireland McCormack joint issue stamps on one FDC!

Up until the 1900s, celebrations in Ireland were solemn affairs – families attended church and had a meal, but pubs were closed.  Once televisions arrived and displayed the celebrations being held in America, Ireland began to expand its own celebrations.  Since 1996, Dublin has hosted a multi-day festival that attracts more than one million people every year.

Click here for more Ireland stamps.

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  1. Much like St Nicklaus & Johnny Appleseed, happy traditions have lasted over many centuries. Thank you Mystic Stamp for helping us smile today.

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