Today, on a freezing day in the Old Port, dozens of Irish Americans came together to celebrate “Irish-ness,” which, in New England, is something of a badge of honor. To be “Irish” (read: at one point one of your great-great so-and-sos came here from the Emerald Isle) is to be proud. And, on March 17th, everyone is Irish.

It’s a strange thing, though. Having lived in Dublin, St. Patrick’s day is known mostly as the time of year when swarms of Irish Americans stomp into Temple Bar and puke, pee and philander around the streets. Business, for the Irish, goes on as usual. Then, one could assert, St. Paddy’s day is more of an “Irish-American Holiday,” and this crowd in Portland certainly showed up en masse to claim that title.

The oddest thing about the whole celebration were the mixed messages in the crowd about who is and what it means to be “Irish,” a sort of sacred and profane situation. Young kids wandered around in GAA jerseys with hurls and young girls carried banners promoting traditional Irish dance, all while people wearing pot-of-gold hats and leprechaun outfits stumbled about waiting for it to be a more socially appropriate hour to order an “Irish Carbomb.”

Despite the confusion and reductiveness of “Irishness” there, it was still fantastic that at least some of the culture that some consider to be dying in Ireland is alive stateside, even if you have to fight past a Lucky Charms mascot to see it.

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