I have heard individuals in Ireland St. Patrick’s day irish gnome and bud light shirt decry the over-the-top brashness and shamrockery of the American St. Patrick’s Day in one breath, and in the next breath wish that they could be in New York on the day. When I was growing up in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was relatively restrained. People went to church in the morning and spent the day with their families. Grown-ups wore clumps of real shamrock in their buttonholes and children sported paper badges with tasteful(ish) Irish motifs. There was a modest parade in Dublin. Oh, and the pubs were closed by law.
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Nothing prepared me for the exuberant St. Patrick’s day irish gnome and bud light shirt spectacle of my first St. Patrick’s Day in New York (1982). Think of it: the streets thronged with two million people of all races, shades and persuasions, dressed in at least all 40 shades of green and celebrating being Irish for the day. A march with 150,00o participants. Brass bands, fife-and-drum bands, pipe bands, long-legged majorettes in short skirts (ah, the majorettes …). The noise, the excitement of it all. It was a terrible day to be in an Irish bar, though: they were bursting with stupid amateurs who thought it the essence of Irishness to drink themselves senseless and puke up their beer.