It wasn't until 1903 that St Patrick's Day was officially marked as a public holiday in Ireland. Until then, it hadn't really featured much at all.
Back in the 17th century, the Catholic Church had made March 17th a holy day of obligation for their Irish flock. But it could (and occasionally did) fall during Holy Week, and was easily moved aside to accommodate the greater festival.
It was not a big deal. On St Patrick's Day, for four centuries, the Irish might find their patron saint mentioned during a church sermon. They could pull out the Sunday best for their family meal. But the huge celebrations simply didn't feature.
But as news spread back from the USA, about the great St Patrick's Day parties being held there, a little more of an effort was made. It felt like the Irish were missing out somewhat, on what purported to be their own big day.
It wasn't until 1931 that the first St Patrick's Day parade was held actually in Ireland. Taking over the streets of Dublin, it took as its inspiration the huge events being staged annually in New York City. But with one huge difference.
Two decades previously, Irish MP James O'Mara had successfully petitioned for all Irish pubs and bars to be closed on March 17th. He didn't want the day of a saint to become linked with high rates of drunkenness. That law held until the 1970s, when it was finally repealed.
Finally, in 1995, the Irish government realized that they had something quite special in St Patrick's Day. It was a way to reach out to all those people of Irish descent lost in the diaspora. It was a way to promote tourism into Ireland! Hence huge funds were made available for Irish St Patrick's Day parades and other events, turning a single day into a week long gala.
The Irish-Americans had happily handed their homeland a 'tradition', which could feed the Celtic Tiger in a most secular festivity. More American than Irish, it's done more to promote Ireland and its culture than anything ever homegrown, and continues to do so to this day.
Happy St Patrick's Day all!