THE WEARING OF THE GREEN: A History of St. Patrick's Day

Mike Cronin, Author, Daryl Adair, Joint Author, Maria Moynihan, Foreword by . Routledge $25 (328p) ISBN 978-0-415-18004-7

The authors, both historians (Cronin wrote A History of Ireland), trace the annual March 17 festivities back to the fifth century—when St. Patrick converted the pagan Irish to Christianity—in this dry, lifeless account of the origins and development of the holiday in Ireland, America, Australia, Canada and Britain. Originally a day of commemoration for the saint (believed to have died on the 17th), St. Patrick's Day began in America with, surprisingly, Protestants. The 18th-century American celebrants included Irish officers in the British army, and their festivities revolved around feasting and dancing. It wasn't until the 19th century, with its vast influx of Irish Catholics fleeing the great famine, that parades became popular. Among the Irish diaspora, St. Patrick's Day parades became a means for the Irish to announce their growing influence in the host countries. Later, the parades became both politicized and commercialized. While the well-known parades in New York, Boston and Melbourne display Irish pride, they also have their darker sides: "The modern St Patrick's Day," the authors contend, "appears as an annual homage to hedonistic celebration and alcohol" and has tended to be an occasion for trotting out unpleasant stereotypes of the Irish as loud, drunken and pugnacious. The parade in Dublin, however, has long been used to promote tourism and Irish industries (especially Guinness). Though the authors insist that St. Patrick's Day is an important lens for viewing Irish history, their claim simply doesn't hold up, nor will those interested in the subject find anything particularly new or interesting here. (Mar. 17)

Reviewed on: 01/14/2002
Release date: 12/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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