On Wednesday, as they have every March 17 for nearly two centuries, New York City’s Irish residents will turn out for a public celebration of their ancestral heritage. Since 1762, they’ve been telling the world how proud and happy they are to be Irish.
For Chris, a perfect St. Patrick’s Day is marching in the parade with Marist College, his alma mater, and then gathering with family and friends afterward. Except, this time, his celebrations – like many around the world – won’t be in person.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still a threat, the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade will be virtual this year. Many other cities have postponed their own observances. On the parade website for heavily Irish South Boston, a count-down clock is already tracking the days, hours, minutes and seconds until next Saint Patrick’s Day.
An enduring new-world appeal
Ireland’s patron saint has long been an international superstar. For instance, even before the Vatican recognized Patrick’s feast day, an Irish soldier-priest was leading a procession in his honor in St. Augustin, Florida on March 17, 1600, colonial records show.
St. Patrick’s appeal today makes sense, given that some 32 million Americans – nearly 10 percent of the country’s population – can trace their trees back to Ireland. It seems only fair to say that the bonds between Ireland and America are strong.
The day’s importance to our family
Our ancestors immigrated many generations ago. Still, our surname, McCann – derived from the Gaelic for wolf cub, by the way – puts us squarely in the community of the Irish diaspora.
Niall O’Dowd, a friend of Jim’s and founder of Irish America magazine, Irish Voice and IrishCentral.com , recently informed me that while growing up in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was a quiet, sedate, religious holiday that was capped off with a meal of bacon or ham. Niall wondered why so many people in Ireland celebrated the holiday in the United States. Niall concluded the U.S. taught Ireland how to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and make it a party. Now everyone is celebrating it in Ireland too!
One of Jim’s favorite meals is the corned beef and cabbage his wife always makes on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s such a family tradition, and so strongly linked in our minds to Ireland, that it was a surprise to learn it’s actually an American innovation. In Ireland, people more generally center the holiday meal on bacon or ham.
As we’ve grown older, we brothers have embraced our heritage even more, and it’s now firmly in the lives of our children and grandkids. We love the parades, which make room for people of all traditions to enjoy. Near Jim’s beach house on Long Island, there’s always been a really great one, usually held on the weekend before Saint Patrick’s Day, so that has given him a chance to gather all of his six grandchildren together, along with friends and relatives from afar, to prolong the holiday celebration. We look forward to the days when we can return to such in-person gatherings.
Let the St. Patrick’s Day celebration begin
Since we can’t safely go to a party or family gathering for the holiday this year, let alone join a parade, we can keep and even strengthen our community ties online. That’s why Jim will be joining a panel discussion in a virtual St. Patrick’s Day celebration in partnership with IrishCentral streaming on Facebook Live on Tuesday, March 16 at 2 p.m. EDT.
The panel will be hosted by Kate Hickey, editorial director at Irish Studio who will be joining us from Ireland alongside some others joining us from Ireland including Anna McGowan, interim St. Patrick’s Festival Director and Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State and former Minister for the Diaspora. Joining us from the U.S. will be Jim and the aforementioned Niall O’Dowd . They’ll be discussing the global phenomenon that is this holiday and its vibrant traditions. This is a chance to celebrate the love and connection to Irish heritage and culture. Please join us in this conversation about what makes this day so important to all of us, including those of us who, sadly, don’t have a drop of Irish blood by RSVPing here.
We would love you to join our sweepstakes to share how you will be celebrating the holiday – whether it’s wearing of-the green or bringing the parade into your own backyard, #ShareYourIrish for a chance to win gifts from our family of brands. Share your favorite traditions here. Also, you can share a photo of your celebrations on social media, tagging both @1800flowers and @IrishCentral with #ShareYourIrish. Or share a story.
All the best,
Chris & Jim
Written by our Founder and CEO, our Celebrations Pulse Sunday Letters aim to engage with our community. From sharing stories to welcoming your ideas, we want to help you to express, connect, and celebrate the important people in your life.