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Word Count: 954
St Patricks Day is celebrated on March 17 his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years On St Patricks Day which falls during the Christian season of Lent Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance drink and feaston the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage The first St Patricks Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17 1762 Along with their music the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army Over the next thirty-five years Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished prompting the rise of so-called Irish Aid societies like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies and drums Up until the mid-nineteenth century most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845 close to a million poor uneducated Catholic Irish began to pour into America to escape starvation Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs When Irish Americans in the country s cities took to the streets on St Patricks Day to celebrate their heritage newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk violent monkeys However the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited They started to organize and their voting block known as the green machine became an important
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