The Thing About Today – March 17

March 17, 2020
Day 77 of 366


March 17th is the seventy-seventh day of the year. It is Saint Patrick’s Day, as well as the associated Christian feast day, a public holiday in Ireland, Montserrat, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day, National 3-D Day, and World Social Work Day. National 3-D Day is typically observed on the third day of the third full week of the third month of the year. World Social Work Day is typically observed on the third Tuesday in March.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1805, the Italian Republic (with Napoleon as president) became the Kingdom of Italy (with Napoleon as King of Italy).
  • In 1901, legendary composer and conductor Alfred Newman was born.
  • In 1919, singer, pianist, and television host Nat King Cole was born.
  • In 1936, astronaut Ken Mattingly was born. He flew on the Apollo 16, STS-4 and STS-51-C missions.
  • In 1941, the National Gallery of Art was officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, DC.
  • In 1948, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Brussels. This was a precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty, which established NATO.
  • In 1950, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley announced the creation of element 98. They named it “californium”.
  • In 1951, actor Kurt Russell was born.
  • In 1955, actor and director Gary Sinise was born.
  • In 1960, actress and singer Vicki Lewis was born.
  • In 1966, the DSV Alvin submarine found a missing American hydrogen bomb, the result of the 1966 Palomares incident, off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean.
  • In 1968, as a result of nerve gas testing by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in Skull Valley, Utah, over 6,000 sheep are found dead. It certainly was neither the first nor the last weapons test in the state. Just ask the Downwinders.
  • In 1992, actor John Boyega was born.


March 17th is Saint Patrick’s Day.

The cultural and religious celebration is observed on the traditional death of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop. According to his own story, the Declaration, he was kidnapped at the age of sixteen by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to work as a shepherd in Gaelic Ireland. After making his way home he trained to become a priest.

According to tradition, he returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. His efforts against the druids were transformed into the allegory in which he “drove the snakes” out of Ireland.

The holiday generally involves public parades and festivals, Irish traditional music sessions (céilithe), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. The shamrocks are credited to a legend in which Patrick used the three-leaved item to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Historically, there were also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances.

St Patrick’s Day parades began in North America in the 18th century but did not spread to Ireland until the 20th century. Typically, participants include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organizations, charities, youth groups, and so one.  Over time, these celebrations have evolved into a carnival of sorts, linking the holiday to excessive consumption of food and alcohol, which some churches temporarily lift Lenten restrictions to accommodate.

While St Patrick’s Day – or “St. Paddy’s Day” colloquially – is observed worldwide, celebrations are often criticized for public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and derogatory stereotypes. One example of that is wearing leprechaun outfits, which are based on a derisive 19th-century stereotype.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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