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Telling stories and gathering with friends are at the core of the Irish experience, and while COVID-19 might have pushed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations virtual, that didn’t stop people from getting together.

One example? A lively discussion of St. Patrick’s Day past and present hosted by IrishCentral and 1-800-Flowers.com. Panelists shared their insights on the holiday, reminiscing as well as tackling the big questions such as “Do the Irish eat corned beef and cabbage?”

Kate Hickey, editorial director at Irish Studio, led the conversation. The speakers included Niall O’Dowd, founder of Irish America magazine, The Irish Voice, and IrishCentral.com; Jim McCann, founder and chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com Inc.; Anna McGowan, interim director of the St. Patrick’s Festival Ireland; and Ciarán Cannon, member of Dáil Éireann and former Minister for the Diaspora.

Reasons for celebrating

Everyone thinks they understand St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s so much more than bright-green cartoon leprechauns, shamrocks, and pots o’ gold. The speakers discussed the true traditions behind St. Patrick’s Day and why we celebrate, as well as how celebrations have changed over the years, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Niall and Ciaran recalled St. Patrick’s Day memories from their youth and agreed that there used to be a strong emphasis on religion and an overwhelming seriousness that day. They explained that it was only after Americans began to put their own spin on the holiday and celebrate with joyful parades that the Irish began to reconsider how they marked the occasion.   

Niall said he believed the Irish in America take such pride in St. Patrick’s Day because of a  “devotion to the idea of Ireland that they left behind but also the Ireland that they were creating in America.”

The Dublin parade was the first big event in Ireland, and it’s now a global St. Patrick’s Day highlight. Indeed, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival prides itself on putting a strong emphasis on cultural inclusion and recognizing the brilliance of other nationalities as they appreciate and celebrate Irish heritage. Hey, everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Post-pandemic plans

The speakers also discussed what a post-pandemic St. Patrick’s Day will look like, and Anna revealed that the St. Patrick’s Day Festival will focus on remembrance for next year’s event.

Everyone has a favorite Irish moment: Jim from 1-800-Flowers.com shared his memory of Bill Clinton traveling to Ireland and said he felt this cemented the cordial relations between Ireland and America. Ciarán chose the phenomenon of Riverdance, and Niall picked the unforgettable Ireland vs. Italy soccer match and the emotion of hearing “Fields of Athenry” echoing around the stadium. Anna chose a beautiful poem commissioned by the festival called “My Ireland,” by Stephen James Smith, which she says gives a powerful insight into contemporary Ireland.

We are very grateful to everyone who celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with us!

There’s still time to share your St. Patrick’s Day stories using the #ShareYourIrish hashtag for a chance to win one of three great prizes from 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., and its family of brands. Did you dress up, have a small party, or perhaps you have a wonderful March 17 memory you’d like to share? Let us know by visiting our sweepstakes page to find out more. Entries close on March 29 so don’t miss out!

Here are just a couple of the great submissions we’ve received so far:

“St. Patrick’s day is a day filled with fun for me and my friends. We love dressing up wearing green, pinching people without green on, and hitting the local Irish pub for some green beers and Irish music! It’s just a day to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company.” — Daniel Pham  

“My family lived in Ireland for a year while I was in graduate school, and we miss it every day. We remain connected to our Irish friends via video chats and mail. We pay tribute to them — and to our Irish ancestors – by playing traditional Irish music, making Irish foods, and reliving our experiences there. Ireland and its people are part of our hearts, and we celebrate that every day.” — Patricia Richards-Service

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