Every March 17, America paints its cities green. Whether it be enjoying a meal of corned beef and cabbage, listening to traditional bagpipe tunes, drinking a cold Guinness, or sporting a green outfit, Irish culture appreciation is widespread on St. Patrick’s Day.
Contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick’s Day actually originates from Irish American immigrants, not from Ireland itself. Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day is a Roman Catholic feast day celebrated in church. However, after facing racial discrimination in America during the 19th century, the holiday became a show of pride for Irish American immigrants. And today, St. Patrick’s Day is a secular tribute to Irish culture and is characterized by iconic music, food, and parties.
In a non-pandemic world, cities around the globe celebrate the holiday in many unique ways. In Dublin, people pour into lively pubs for beer and live music, while in Chicago, the local law enforcement dyes the Chicago River green (don’t worry, the vegetable-based dye is safe for the environment!) And of course, every year, 150,000 Irish Americans participate in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. This event first occurred in 1848 and is today’s largest civilian parade. No matter where you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you’re also likely to hear some kind of Irish music; traditional tunes range from upbeat jigs like “Shipping Up To Boston” to Celtic ballads like “Danny Boy,” both of which feature the bodhrán (a special drum), the Celtic harp, the fiddle, and the uilleann pipes.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has cancelled holiday celebrations for two years in a row. However, one group of enthusiastic Irish locals made the most of this joyous season: the internationally-ranking dancers of Ridgewood Irish Dance performed at a handful of COVID-safe events. In the phenomenon usually known as “March Madness,” Ridgewood Irish dancers can be seen dancing at local pubs, nursing homes, parades, and nationally televised broadcasts. One dancer, RHS Senior Elizabeth McLaughlin, notes, “In previous years, we’d miss full days of school for dance outs and perform all over Bergen County.” But still grateful for the few performance opportunities after a year of the pandemic, McLaughlin emphasizes, “focusing on a few local dance outs was still very enjoyable.”
No matter your ancestry, don’t be afraid to show your Irish spirit come March. After all, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!
Social Media Editor
Graphic: Vivian Yuan