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Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Kid reporter wears the green in New Orleans

By Abigayle Lista | March 17 , 2008
A Saint Patrick’s Day parade float makes its way through Metairie, Louisiana, on March 15, 2008. (Photo courtesy Abigayle Lista)<br />
A Saint Patrick’s Day parade float makes its way through Metairie, Louisiana, on March 15, 2008. (Photo courtesy Abigayle Lista)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day. Are you wearing green? Do you know why? Saint Patrick's Day, observed on March 17, is among Ireland's most important religious holidays, set aside to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Green, the national color of Ireland, is the color of the day. Many Irish also wear shamrocks, the country's national symbol.

Saint Patrick's Day is a festive holiday for the Irish—wherever they may be. Wearers of the green celebrate with parades, speeches, special dinners, and dances. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 36 million people with Irish roots in the United States, so there are a lot of folks celebrating today.

In Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush welcomed Irish Prime Minister Bernie Ahern and participated in a traditional Irish Shamrock Ceremony. Prime Minister Ahern presented President Bush with a shamrock, symbolizing the profound kinship between Ireland and the United States.

In New York City, men and women in kilts played the bagpipes for the annual Saint Patrick's Day parade. New York firefighters helped lead the procession of green up Fifth Avenue.

In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed a perfect shade of Irish green to commemorate the day.

In New Orleans, we have a particularly unique way of celebrating Saint Patrick's Day. New Orleanians celebrate with very elaborate parades that resemble the ones at Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday.” Thousands of people wearing green line the streets waiting to catch items thrown from beautifully decorated floats.

But rather than getting their hands on traditional Mardi Gras beads and cups, revelers at the Saint Patrick's Day are looking to catch something else flying through the air: food.

The float riders throw cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions. It sounds crazy, but we throw these vegetables because they are the ingredients of a traditional Irish stew. Folks are supposed to take the items they catch home and boil up a batch, as part of their celebrations.

Float in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Metairie, Louisiana
Scholastic Kid Reporter Abigayle Lista at a Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Metairie, Louisiana, on March 15, 2008. (Photo courtesy Gina Robinson-Lista)

There are multiple Saint Patrick's Day parades, and I had the chance to ride on one of the floats. My family had to gather our Mardi Gras beads and buy cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and other foods to throw to parade watchers.

It was great to see everyone having such a great time. We didn't miss the chance to catch our own stew ingredients, though. At this past weekend's parades, we caught 12 heads of cabbage and bags full of other food items and lots more beads.

Many people may not realize that this is a very special holiday to people here in New Orleans. My birthday happens to fall around Saint Patrick's Day, and participating in this part of New Orleans' rich and unique culture is the best way to celebrate.

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About the Author

Abigayle Lista is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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