Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Patricks Day in New York

St. Patrick's day in New York City is unlike anything I have experienced in other parts of the world and I have celebrated the holiday in Ireland!  It is one of the biggest events here, with a parade on 5th avenue and various activities throughout the city. I was surprised by the number of people who actively celebrate St. Patricks day and it isn't just those of Irish decent, but people from all backgrounds and ethnicities. They dress up in green outfits, wear beads, paint their faces and colour their food and drinks. Bars, pubs and restaurants all have special 'St. Paddy's' day menus and people spill onto the street enjoying the festivities.  Although the Feast of St. Patrick is widely celebrated in the UK, the associated traditions do differ and I found it intriguing to see how the holiday is celebrated in America.  

In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day celebrations focus more on the historical traditions of the country and the American idea of what is considered Irish isn't always accurate. The Irish tourism board desperately wants to move away from the stereotype of the beer drinking "fighting Irish", and for people to understand that the Irish culture has a lot more to offer than Guinness, shamrocks and leprechauns.  Also some of the activities celebrated in the USA as part of this holiday are in fact from other countries. For example, the Highland games are not an Irish tradition, but originated in Scotland. That said, the idea that everyone should have fun and enjoy the holiday is common no matter where in the world you celebrate St. Patricks Day. 

Since moving to New York I have come across many people who say they are Irish, even though most have never visited Ireland or have any Irish relatives. As many New Yorkers are of Irish decent I can understand why they associate with this aspect of their lineage. However, I myself had an Irish grandmother and both of my husbands parents were Irish, but we both say we are English. I find it interesting that so many people relate to Ireland, but not other countries.  Descendants of other European countries, perhaps with the exception of Italy, don't often claim to be of that nationality. It is unusual to hear New Yorkers say they are English or Dutch, even if their ancestry originated from those countries.  In some cases people feel they are as much Irish as they are American. It is quite amazing that such a small country has such an impact all over the world, especially in the USA.

I think it's great that so many New Yorkers, and Americans, want to embrace the country and culture of their ancestors. However, I also believe that it is great to be an American!

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