St Patrick’s Day Celebrations in The US Vs Ireland

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The St Patrick’s celebrations have been around for more than 250 years in the USA, and perhaps more in Ireland. Having served in Ireland as a missionary that introduced Christianity, Saint Patrick helped to establish monasteries, churches, and schools that later spread after his death. The commemoration traces its origin in Ireland where mainstream churches observed the day as a religious event. During the initial celebrations, Irish law required the closure of all the pubs but changed in 1970 when the day was made a public holiday.

On the other hand, the Irish Americans celebrations leaned more towards Irish cultural recognition than the religious purpose. In fact, you may think Saint Patrick’s day is an Irish cultural commemoration as every celebrant strives to look and feel Irish. Nevertheless, the celebration just went as usual with Irish Americans making a strong statement again. In Ireland, it just was another day to commemorate the patron saint said to have driven snakes out of the country. While both nations adhere to the traditions of the festival, some notable differences exist in the way both observe the day.

1. The Irish Do Not Subscribe To The Green Attire

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Image Source: Ocean City Maryland

In case, you did not know, each color on the Irish flag has a special meaning to the Irish. The green denotes the Catholics, orange the Protestants and white for the wish for unity in the country. During the festivals in the US, green remains a prominent color and hence taken for the theme of the holiday. You are either in green clothes, green hair, or in the green car as it’s believed to make you invisible to the leprechauns that pinch anyone visible to them. It perhaps explains why more than 83% of the celebrants subscribe to the green attire in the USA.

On the other hand, the Irish ironically shows little acceptance to a theme not associated with their flag and perhaps their evergreen fields. Unlike Irish Americans, the Irish do not speak of the leprechauns and hence do not dress up to avoid the Pinch. You will be surprised to find yourself in green or shouting in the morning.

2. Low Profile Celebration in Ireland

Despite the repealing of the Irish law that declared St Patrick’s a national holiday, the Irish are yet to Americanize their celebrations like their fellows in the US. In Ireland, people attend masses in huge crowds in the morning with most spending the rest of the day with their families. Over the years of celebrations, the day has remained a low profile festival with only a few successful parades occurring in major cities.

In the US, the day offers an opportunity for Irish Americans to reconnect with their rich heritage, and perhaps their common habit-drinking. While the first few celebrations faced fierce resistance from the established immigrants, the Irish immigrant’s determination superseded any efforts to curb their heritage. However, it seems to have lost the religious touch, with people partying on the better part of the evenings.

3. Irish Americans and The Green Beer

In America, the green beer forms a significant part of the celebrations in a society that takes the holiday for a partying festival. It explains why almost every pub in the cities is well stocked with the green beer and Guinness for the day. As if not enough, most of the pubs serve Irish green beer to express solidarity with the Irish in Ireland. Americans indulge in drinking after the major parades while their Irish counterparts keep it sober.

Nevertheless, the Irish may have one or two beers during the St Paddy’s, unlike the American counterparts that average at seven to eight bottles. If you are not a Guinness enthusiast, the Irish pubs serve a myriad of Irish Whiskeys meant to make you feel Irish.

4. It’s Fairies For the Irish, But Leprechauns For Irish Americans

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Image Source: Latin Times

When it comes to the magical creatures, the leprechauns are an American creation, often represented by a red headed boy. They trick you to steal a pot of gold, and once you get it, they dance to the jig celebrating your victory. For this reason, they express their haunted past through ghostly figures.

On the other hand, fairies seem to be part of the ancient Irish culture believed to be creatures on their way to becoming spirits. Traditionally, the Irish lived in fear of these creatures owing to the belief that they would terrorize communities and steal children.

5. It’s Fish and Chips in Ireland; Corned beef and Cabbages in America

If you are new to the Irish heritage, you may have thought that every aspect of the celebration is Irish. After the major parades in America, people tend to retire to restaurants and pubs where they are served corned beef and cabbages. The delicacy found widespread adoption when the Irish used it for the pioneer celebrations, making it seem Irish by the other immigrants.

Interestingly enough is that corned beef is neither Irish nor pure American, as it was a Jewish delicacy used in public festivals. However, the meal evolved from the Irish bacon that the Irish immigrants found untenable in America. In Ireland, you will hardly find a restaurant serving more corned beef than it does with chips, fish, and other traditional foods. In case you have taken a few pints in a pub, you can always get some curry fries.

6. The Parades

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Image Source: Monika Graff

In America, St Patrick’s Day is not complete without the street parades that happened in almost every city in the states. With the first ever parade organized in 1737 in Boston, Irish Americans subscribe to the marching event in vast numbers with some taking more than six hours of the day. Different cities adopted the marching in various years, with some bringing in local activities to supplement the parade.

The Irish are more inclined to the religious meaning of the day than the outward expressions that engulf the American commemoration. Perhaps, the Irish did not have the intention to make any statements of their heritage as they live at home. Currently, major cities such as Dublin are home to numerous parades but are not as conspicuous as those in America.


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