Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why is this blog celebrating St. Patrick's Day If I am not Irish?

 The Five-Hour Parade in New York tomrrow marches past St. Patrick's Cathedral. 

By now, you probably realize that St. Patrick's Day, the Irish National Holiday tomorrow celebrating the patron Saint of Ireland, is a pretty big deal for me. This blog looks like the Irish Tourist Board web site for one thing. Let me assure you that I do not have one drop of Irish blood in me. Although 45 million Americans claim some Irish ethnicity, I am not one of them. So why is it such a big deal here?

Simple. I am a born and bred New Yorker, always was, and always will be. And St. Paddy's Day, as the holiday is known in New York, is the most important public celebration outside of your own home-  all year.  Christmas and Thanskgiving are more for spending time with family.  New Yorkers by the hundreds of thousands go out, drink more than a few beers with some great friends, wear the green, and think about how great it is that you are Irish, real or imagined, for the day.

Now St. Patrick's day is also a huge holiday in other American and Canadian cities, as well as cities around the world. But as far as I know, it is only in New York where just about everyone born there seems to think they have become honorary Irish for the day.  Why is this? First and foremost, New York City is the largest Irish city in the world, with well over 1 million Irish – Americans, New York City has more people in it of Irish ancestry than any other city in the world.

The famous New York St. Patrick's Day Parade was first held in 1762 by Irish Soldiers in the British Army. By 1848, the Parade had become the largest  in the United States, and now has  150,000 marchers and 2 million observers in a typical year. Every politician who seeks election or reelection in New York  marches in the parade.  And St. Patrick's Cathedral, the beautiful Gothic structure across from Rockefeller Center on famous Fifth Avenue, the street on which the parade is held, is named after the patron saint of Ireland himself.

 Empire State Building Lit Green

You cannot miss St. Paddy's day in New York.  The iconic Empire State building is lit green, and thousands of Irish flags are flown. But there is another reason why New York has made St. Paddy's day it's own. 
New York City is, most of all, a city of immigrants. The torch of Liberty did not just mean people could seek refuge in New York; it meant that in a very short period of time those that stayed would actually become native New Yorkers and would no longer be outsiders.. St. Paddy's Day is a New York celebration simply because New Yorkers know that it would be a much lesser place without the Irish, and has, since 1848, become world's greatest Irish city.  All New Yorkers become honorary Irish on March 17 as a result.

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