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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.
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.