St. Patrick’s Day: Ireland vs. America


Many Americans might ask themselves, “What exactly is being celebrated every March 17th on St. Patrick’s Day?” Is it just a day where one gets to pinch those who aren’t dressed in green? No. While many Americans see the holiday as a day to drink green beer, watch parades, and pinch people, those in Ireland beg to differ. To them it has a deeper, more heartfelt meaning.

“When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was what they called, a holy day of obligation,” says Ken O’Malley. He recalls waking up early to go to church with his family to celebrate the saint and eat a nice dinner with lamb or roast. “We’d wear shamrocks, or little patches on our jackets that were green.”

According to O’Malley, St. Patrick’s Day used to mean so much more when he was a child. He says St. Patrick’s Day was a day when families would come together to celebrate with mass, food, and even music played by the families themselves. It used to be a day where ancient traditions would come into play and tons of people would attend fleadhs (music sessions consisting of traditional Irish music) to watch performances and contests by both famous and aspiring musicians.

While St. Patrick’s Day used to be a day where families rejoiced together, O’Malley claims that today, St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish is like the Oktober Fest for Germans. He is sorry to say that ages of tradition went to waste after the economic depression in Ireland during the 1980s when the Irish fled to America, and through the years, brought back with them the American tradition consisting of “big flashy blow up balloons, all the ridiculous green top hats, all the decorative stuff. They also brought back the custom of getting really loaded and drunk on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“It’s all about money. It’s all about tourism,” claims the Irish musician. The stereotypes have traveled to Ireland, depicting the holiday in the eyes of the people of both countries as just a day to binge on food, music, and liquor. While the holiday is still a good time, it just isn’t the same. He plans to celebrate this year with a lot of hard work. He will be performing at three different places, starting the morning off with a performance at a Catholic senior citizen home where 5 or 6 retired priests reside.

As it turns out, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a day to pinch people. It actually has a deeper meaning and a life is actually being celebrated. It was a day in Ireland when people used to come together to feast and go to mass. It was a day when people used to come together to play music and have a few drinks. It was not a day when people used to pinch those not wearing green, or wear outrageous green top hats. It was not a day when people used to come together with the sole intentions of drinking and wilding out. The next time somebody describes the holiday with characteristics of the American tradition and stereotypical perception of St. Patrick’s Day, just remember, it means so much more than that.

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