Irish tricolor swimsuits being modeled in Newfoundland K. Bruce Lane photographyMarch 17th marks the day when Ireland celebrates their patron saint dealing with the Emerald Isle's invasive species problem. Although Saint Patrick is credited with driving all the snakes from Ireland, some buzzkills in the scientific community maintain that there never were any snakes in post-glacial Ireland to begin with.
Nonetheless, the day is observed with a good deal of fanfare- particulary abroad where St Patrick's Day observances include parades, beer, sporting green attire, beer, Irish stew cook-offs, more beer, bagpipes, wearing pins in a desperate ploy for any attention from the opposite sex.
And perhaps one of the most Irish places outside of the British Isles would be Eastern Massachusetts. Although emirgration from Ireland across the Atlantic had been ongoing since the mid 1600s [at times under duress from British occupiers- NANESB!], the potato famine of the 1840s hastened the Irish exodus to both the Americas and elsewhere in the British empire. Irishmen migrated to places as far afield as Boston, Sydney, Buenos Aires or Montreal- in fact, Bernardo O'Higgins was the name of a general who fought Spanish colonial rule in the early 19th century and became the first president of Chile. To this day, streets in many Chilean cities and towns bear his name.
However, cities like Boston and New York were considerably closer to the Emerald Isle and saw the greatest influx of Irish immigrants. While many of the Irish remained on the east coast, often living in squalid tenaments and working dangerous jobs in factories or mines, some Irish began expanding westward with other immigrants with the discovery of gold in California, the advent of the Civil War and the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
By the early 20th Century, those in the Irish communities on the east coast could often be found working as police officers, firefighters or clergy in the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps to nobody's suprise eastern Massachusetts remains the most 'Irish' part of the USA- in 1919, Irish statesman Eamon de Valera delivered a speech at Fenway Park urging support for Irish fighters who were waging a guerilla campaign against the British in Ireland's war for Independence. More recently, during 'The Troubles' Irish Republican murals were a common sight on buildings in the Dorchester section of Boston and the Irish mafia trafficked weapons to the IRA.
But that's not to say Boston has the monopoly on all things St Patrick's Day. New York's St Patrick's Day parade boasts an even bigger turnout and Chicago makes it a tradition to dye the Chicago River green each St Patrick's Day. While not as famously 'Irish' as Boston or New York, the St Patrick's Day festivities in Savannah, GA can always boast a high turnout thanks in part to the presence of nearby military bases and the celebrations overlapping with Spring Break at some universities.
Whether your actual St Patricks Day plans involve non-stop binging on Guiness or something a little more sedate, here's wishing you a relatively safe St Paddy's day and here's to not waking up in the drunk tank.