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Subject: Re: St Patrick's Day
From: Daryl Adair <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Daryl Adair <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 30 Nov 1999 04:45:55 +1100

text/plain (126 lines)


Your point about Judaism-as-religion and Israel-as-nation is well made.
Though I would suggest that a 'personal' connection with the Jewish
'homeland' (now Zionist state) does seem at least 'desirable' for Jews
residing outside of the Middle East. I am, however, far more interested in
your comment about St Patrick's Day (which I will be very thankful, as my
study unfolds, to quote):

>In North America it [St Patrick's Day] bears about as much relation to
Ireland and Irish
>culture as the modern commercialized Halloween bears to the Celtic Samhain.

Living as I do in Australia I don't have familiarity with Halloween; so I'm
not in a position to comment on comparisons. And I don't have a well
developed 'irony detector', so I'm not even sure how serious you are in
drawing such a comparison. Yet your central points seem clear enough
(though allow me to extend them for you): St Patrick's Day has accommodated
the nostalgic needs of Irish-Americans (and others worldwide) to
conceptualise (imagine?) their connection with Eire. Concurrently, the
celebration of St Patrick's Day needs to be understood (like other public
rituals such as Halloween and Thanksgiving) as part of the
commercialisation of popular culture. In these two key ways, then, St
Patrick's Day 'abroad' has very different cultural and commercial
significance to St Patrick's Day in Ireland. (Please correct me if I have
misrepresented your position).

You are quite right to emphasise differences between Ireland and 'Abroad'
in terms of the manner and significance with which St Patrick's Day has
been celebrated. Recently, however, Paddy's Day seems to have been
'reinvented' for popular consumption in some parts of Ireland, though
particularly in Dublin. The Irish Times has an extensive summary of the
festivities for 1998-99 at the following site: It appears from this source that
St Patrick's Day in late 1990s Dublin has embraced the parades, musical
concerts, and displays that have been part of 17 March in New York,
Chicago, Sydney, etc. Do you see this as an outcome of the relatively
recent commercialisation of Irish culture (i.e. globalisation,
modernisation, tourism)? If so, do we read such a development as pragmatic
and opportunistic, or might it also be part of an evolving (and hence
changing) Irish culture that is more adaptable and diverse than in the
past? Allow me to quote from a couple of the correspondents at the Irish
Times web site:

                            Dr James McDaid TD, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation

                                        Céad Míle Fáilte romhaibh go Féile
Phádraig 1999. Ó mhaidin
                                        gohoíche beidh sult, spórt agus
ceol againn. Tar agus bíodh spraoi
                                        agaibh. Welcome to the 1999 St
Patrick's Festival, a vibrant and
                                        lively beginning to our national
millennium celebrations. That makes
                                        this year's Festival a very special
one indeed. We are giving
                                        ourselves a headstart on the rest
of the world. This is the fourth
                                        year of the Festival, a development
that has dramatically changed
                                        the perception of Ireland's
national holiday both nationally and
                                        internationally. The success of
previous years has been built on
                                        ensuring five days of innovative,
lively, imaginative, free and
                                        accessible fun for everyone.

                                        Celebrations commence on Saturday,
March 13th, with the
                                        pyrotechnic spectacular "Aer Lingus
SkyFest". On Sunday, the
                                        streets will be alive with "The Big
Day Out with Dunnes" followed by
                                        International Carnival on Monday
and The Odyssey on Tuesday
                                        night. The climax of the full five
days of festivities will be the
                                        Festival Parade, followed by the
Monster Ceilí to keep the party in
                                        full swing.


                           Kathy Sheridan, Irish Times journalist

                            ... the St Patrick's Day Festival is certainly doing its bit
                                        for diversity. Watch out for a
remarkable swathe of classes,
                                        cultures and creeds, resulting in
some fantastic displays of
                                        interweaving traditions, such as
the pageant staged by a Dublin
                                        inner city group - where many
asylum-seekers are housed - in
                                        which an African goddess is
generous enough to guard St Brigid's
                                        Well. As well as more than 230
Irish community groups ranging from
                                        the Wheelchair Association and
Macra na Feirme to the Refugee
                                        Trust, this year's extravaganza
will include Trinidadian and Cuban
                                        carnival groups as well as a
Togolese street theatre and dance

These two appended quotes seem to reinforce the points I raised previously:
(1) St Paddy's as an event to bring in tourists from around the world -
estimates were put at 800,000 people (though obviously not all tourists)
attending the 99 festivities in Dublin; (2) St Paddy's Day as a more
catholic (as opposed to Catholic) event reflecting a more diverse and
'wordly' Irish society.

Thanks for your thoughts Neil. Sometimes they read like a slap in the face,
but that helps to keep me awake when I read e-mails in the wee hours while
bottle-feeding my son.


Daryl Adair
p.s. I will appreciate hearing from other Celtic-L correspondents about the
'relevance' or otherwise of St Patrick's Day in various parts of the world.

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