Friday, March 17, 2006

Ah, Christmas in Killarney on Saint Patrick's in June...

There are no doubt any number of Americans of recent Third World ancestry who wonder what the fuss is about today. Even until the current generation, the feast of St Patrick was a religious holiday in the land of his patronage. Irish Catholics went to Mass as a holyday of obligation, and the bars were closed. Then along came the Americans, descendents of the exiles from the great potato famine of the early 19th century, with their green beer and their St Paddy's parades.

The truth is, just over ten percent of the USA population claims ancestry from the Emerald Isle (this author and his family are not among them), exactly 30,528,492 of them according to the 2000 Census, and over seven times the population of Ireland itself, which stood at 4 million in 2003.

But that could be on the rise, as Western companies look to Erin's shores for cheap labor in the high-tech industries.* Already the American influence is felt in, of all things, the aforementioned parade. See it for yourself in this video feed from The Irish Times Sadly, some of the old neighborhood pubs are giving way to the huge franchise variety. Now that is pathetic!

I generally don't go out of my way to wear green on this day. But I do have a button I wear, a line from a poem by William Butler Yeats: "I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree..."

And two years ago, I wrote my manifesto on all things Irish, entitled "My Celtic Moment."

Finally, if you're in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this weekend, and are in the mood for local theatre, go see "The Irish... and How They Got That Way."

* Personally, I hope they take over some of the toll-free numbers from India, where the command of English leaves much to be desired (and they're not much help either). Besides, I'd rather argue with an Irishman.

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