Many, many years ago, some friends invited me to join them in a visit to a nearby Irish pub for St. Patrick’s Day. Seems it was a *real* Irish pub – they were hosting a small band who were actually *from* Ireland that night. Beer, good music, and friends? What’s not to like?
The only thing that stayed with me these many years is that at some point, a couple of older (much older – we’re talking senior citizens here) people came in. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but one of the ladies in the group kept asking the band to play “Danny Boy”. Every time, they begged off, claiming they didn’t know it, maybe later, and the like. Eventually, that group left.
I think the problem was that “Danny Boy” isn’t really considered an Irish song (the lyrics were written by a Brit, and the music – the Londonderry Air – takes its name from a county in Northern Ireland). Rather, it’s an Irish-American one, adopted by expatriates in the United States. It’s a fine song, but it’s probably as Irish as green beer, those cheap green plastic hats that get sold in early March, and most people who wear a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirt.
I think of St Patrick’s Day not so much as an Irish holiday, but as an Irish-American one, in the same manner that Columbus Day is an Italian-American holiday, and Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican-American one. The days don’t mean that much in their “home” countries; it’s only here that we use them as an
excuse to party get a day off from work celebrate those people’s contributions to American culture.
(Yes, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, but I’d say that Easter Monday is rather more important for that nation.)
I would like to think that in the years since that pub visit, Americans have become rather more acquainted with “real” Irish music and culture. Below the “More” line, you’ll find an annotated playlist of some Irish performers singing real Irish music. Give it a listen – if you don’t, I won’t care. I’ll just pour myself a glass of Powers and read “Darby O’Gill and the Good People“….