St. Patrick's Day: Until Recently, More Dallas than Dublin

St. Patrick's Day: Until Recently, More Dallas than Dublin
by Borgna Brunner

Ironically, for almost its entire history St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated with far greater fanfare in Boston or New York than it was in Galway or Dublin.
Until recently Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade was largely made up of American participants-marching bands and drum majorettes from Wichita Falls and the like. In Ireland, banks, stores, and businesses were closed on March 17, but the day was primarily been celebrated as a religious feast day. Until the 1970s, pubs were in fact prohibited from opening on March 17. In the United States, however, as anyone not color-blind knows, St. Patrick's Day is a secular extravaganza celebrating Irishness, real or imagined. And it's no wonder the craic (Irish for "fun") has ballooned in this country on March 17: there are a whopping 30 million Americans of Irish ancestry. Compare that to the 4 million Irish living in Ireland.
Importing a National Holiday, Pronto
Since 1995, however, the Irish government-struck by the strange paradox of parts of the world (the U.S., Canada, and Australia) making a bigger hoopla out of St. Patrick Day than the Emerald Isle itself-began a national campaign to transform St. Patrick's Day into an authentic Irish celebration. What no doubt also struck the government was something else enticingly green besides shamrocks and beer-all the wonderful money-making opportunities, tourism, and P.R.
Bring On the Green
Since then, they've been catching up to the Yanks. St. Patrick's Day parades in the U.S. number about 100; in the Republic of Ireland, there are now about 30. Even Belfast, which had never before held a parade, began having its own in 1998. And once Ireland claimed the holiday as its own, it saw no reason it couldn't change the name to "St. Patrick's Festival," expanding the holiday first to three days, and eventually to a full week. Last year, more than one million people showed up for the festivities in Dublin. In 2006, St. Patrick's festival is celebrated from Wednesday, March 15, to Sunday, March 19.