By Michelle Hazekamp
March 13, 2022
Kick-Start to St. Patrick's Day
Saturday, March 12 was the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Downtown Muskegon; a kick-start to the Irish holiday. The Muskegon County Republican Party joined in the festivities with a decorated float and several candidates running for local and state offices which included Senator Bumstead, Mick Bricker (candidate for the 88th House District State Representative), Andrew Sebolt (State Representative for the 102nd District), Muskegon County Commissioner, Kim Cyr and Muskegon County Commissioner candidates, Michelle Hazekamp, David Dursema, Matt Johnson and
Commissioner Zach Lahring behind the wheel pulling the float.
Best Dressed Irishman or Duck?
The parade began shortly after 11:00am with a temperature of 17 degree's and a windchill of 9 degree's. We may have been crazy for doing this and the "Luck of the Irish" most certainly was not with us for the weather! This day was recorded as the lowest hight temperature on March 12 since 1896 and Grover Cleveland was our President. There was a constant brisk wind and snow showers as we moved through the parade route, beginning on 6th Street and ending on 2nd Street. We bundled up in winter gear with a few lucky charm props to snazzy up our attire, and each of us holding an American Flag, honoring both America and the Irish ancestry most of us have. If there was a contest for a best dressed Irishman, Mick Bricker would have won hands down with his kilt and lepreuchan hat adorned in his campaign literature. However, Peewee the duck was pretty tough competition.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade was a quaint parade, having a small number of participants and not a huge amount of spectators, maybe a hundred or so. I suspect the weather had much to do with attendance.
As we marched in route many children were waiting for candy and had their bags ready while spectators smiled and waived., also adorned in festive St. Patrick's Day props. The parade went quick and before we knew it, we had come to the end. Although it was a good time, I think we were all relieved to get out of the cold.
A Short History of St. Patrick
The patron, St. Patrick that we honor on March 17 every year, was not Irish. He was born a Roman citizen in 5th century England to wealthy parents. At age 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. He spent six years in captivity, suffered brutal conditions by his masters as he worked as their Shepard. When he left England, he was an atheist, however, believed he heard the voice of God while in captivity and became a Christian.
After six years in captivity, Patrick heard God's voice telling him to escape. It is believed he walked 200 miles to the coast of Ireland before making it to England. Once back in England, he heard God's voice again telling him to go back to Ireland as a missionary. Patrick studied and trained in Theology for 15 years before returning to Ireland as a missionary.
The Irish practiced the pagan Celtic religion and St. Patrick regularly incorporated pagan symbols used by the Irish into his Christian teachings as a way to influence conversion. For instance, the sun was a powerful Irish pagan symbol. St. Patrick superimposed it onto the cross, thus creating the Celtic cross. And legend claims he used the 3 leaf clover to teach about the Trinity of God. Although he was not the first Christian missionary or Bishop in Ireland, what made him successful was his determination, compassion and willingness to forgive those who he suffered from.
March 17, around 460 A.D., is believed to have been the day St. Patrick died. Although he is declared as a Saint, he was never canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. This is because at the time in history he lived, the church did not yet canonize Saints. The miracle most famously associated with St. Patrick is of him driving all the snakes out of Ireland. This is most certainly legend because Ireland is snake free and is believed by experts that snakes never made it to Ireland to begin with, By the time of his death he had constructed roughly 300 churches and converted over 120,000 Irish pagans to Christianity.
Irish Immigration to America
The first wave of Irish immigration to America began in 1715. Those who came to Boston between 1715 and 1740, consisting of 200,00 Irish, were escaping the discrimination that the English Penal Laws imposed on Protestant dissenters (non-Anglicans) and Roman Catholics alike. By 1930, 4.5 million Irish had come to America and compromised half of all immigrants in this country.
The Irish Contribution to the Revolutionary War
Irish participation in the American Revolution helped make American independence a reality.
While tens of thousands of old Gaelic names of 17th and 18th Century Irish immigrants appear with astonishing regularity in completely verifiable colonial records, any reference to these people is almost totally omitted from our standard American histories, including the American Revolution. Irish and Irish-American soldiers (especially Scotch Irish) constituted between 1/4 and 1/3 of the American Continental Army. That included nearly 1,500 officers of Irish ancestry, among them 22 generals and more than a dozen sea captains. Shortly after the conclusion of the peace between England and the U. S., Lord Mountjoy spoke in Parliament of the reasons why England lost: “America was lost through the Irish emigrants…I have been assured on the best authority that the Irish language was commonly spoke in the America ranks.”
When the British Army had evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, George Washington recognized the day’s significance in the eyes of so many of his soldiers. He named John Sullivan, the son of Irish immigrants, the officer of the day and made “St. Patrick” the password for those on guard duty. To this day, March 17 is a state holiday in MA, though few of the residents seem to be aware that it is in commemoration of “Evacuation Day.”
St; Patrick's Day is not just about honoring the Saint, but the ancestry and history of many in this nation who claim Irish heritage and the role they played in the founding and formation of this "melting pot" we call the "Land of the Free!"
Michelle Hazekamp is a Muskegon County business owner and a Delegate for the Muskegon County Republican Party. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a bachelorette in Science and a minor in History.