Each time Andy Holder has moved to a new Army post, one of his first searches is for Irish and Scottish festivals.

“It’s important for me to embrace my culture,” said Holder, who is stationed at Fort Carson and wore a brown felt kilt to the Colorado Springs St. Patrick’s Day Parade downtown Saturday.

“Sometimes that’s just enjoying everything being green, but I want to know my family.”

Holder, who said his DNA test showed he was Irish, Scottish, Welsh and British, has passed the pride down to his son, Douglas, who says St. Patrick’s Day is the holiday he looks forward to the most. That, and Oktoberfest.

The Holders were among the nearly 20,000 people at the 35th annual parade where children with three-leaf clover hats, families with matching Irish regalia and men with beards dyed green celebrated the patron saint thought to have brought Christianity to Ireland.

The holiday has exploded across the United States, especially in cities with large Irish populations such as Boston, Chicago and New York, but also just about everywhere else, with one of the largest parades held in Savannah, Ga. Along the way, some of the truth behind its origins has been lost.

Holder accurately noted that the day commemorates the death of St. Patrick and that, until the 1970s, no pub, bar or store in Ireland was allowed to sell liquor on March 17. Everywhere, except for at the Royal Dublin Dog Show, where the beer and liquor flowed.

The extravaganza that is St. Patrick’s Day in the United States was only a minor religious holiday in Ireland until the drinking prohibition ended. Philip Freeman of Luther College in Iowa told National Geographic, “St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans.”

Josh and Jera Wooden, a Colorado Springs couple whose tradition it is to come to the parade, framed it more jovially.

“We take the holiday and make green beer, green mashed potatoes, basically everything green,” Jera said.

When asked why St. Patrick was important, Josh said that he brought Christianity to Ireland, as many others in the crowd did.

Probably not true. In 431, before Patrick began preaching in Ireland, Pope Celestine reportedly sent a bishop known as Palladius “to the Irish believing in Christ”— an indication that some residents of the Emerald Isle had converted by then, according to the History Channel.

The Woodens were most excited to see their children in the North Middle School and Palmer High School marching bands.

“Palmer and North are the best ones marching down here, we all know that,” Jera said.

Twitter: @lizmforster Phone: 636-0193

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

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Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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