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St. Patrick's Day memories

Some regard March 17 as a holy day of obligation - with those obligations being: first, attend Mass and second, march in the parade. To others, it's a day for political statements about promoting peace with justice, economic development and other social concerns that affect the country. Others think of the day as an opportunity to immerse themselves in the riches of Irish culure: attending concerts or plays, digging out their favorite Irish CDs, or gathering around the television for the annual ceremonial viewing of "The Quiet Man." Many pack themselves into their local Irish pub for a quick drink and a seisiun. There are the legions who embrace the Plastic Paddy aesthetic - some with irony, some without - drinking green beer, sporting loud green tee-shirts and sporting the kitsch " . . . Me, I'm Irish" buttons.

And then there is the vast majority, who fall somewhere in between: the ones who remember growing up in Ireland, or in America, with immigrant parents who proudly pinned shamrock to their coats before heading out the door. Who, back in the days before cheap phone service, looked forward to the weekly or monthly call to the folks "back home." Whose mothers made corned beef and cabbage, even while tutting that it was an American creation, and not Irish at all. Who studied step dancing, or the tin whistle, or The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, as a way to stay connected with their heritage.

It is to this diverse group of people that we dedicate our collection of St. Patrick's Day memories. I owe a debt of thanks to the 38 individuals -- political leaders, performers, artists, sports figures, business people, community activists - who graciously agreed to share their thoughts with us. Together, they paint a picture of what it means to be Irish in the early days of the 21st century.

To them, and to all of you, we at the Irish Echo wish a happy St. Patrick's Day.

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