St Patrick's Day fun chases away Irish gloom
Over hundreds of thousands are expected to turn out at the 70 parades which are taking place across Ireland.DUBLIN – Hundreds of thousands of revellers were expected to turn out at St Patrick's Day parades around Ireland Tuesday, providing brief but welcome relief from the economic gloom.
The largest parade in Dublin, with its theme of "The Sky's the Limit", was to involve more than 2,000 performers including street theatre companies and marching bands from the US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Ireland.
The traditional feast day of Ireland's patron saint has become a six-day festival aimed at showcasing the country and giving an early kick-start to the tourism season.
Budgets for festivities have been cut back this year but there are still some 70 parades taking place across the Emerald Isle.
For the first time in years, at least half of the government is staying at home for the national holiday - traditionally ministers fan out round the world to promote Ireland on the back of the celebrations.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen was due to have a 40-minute meeting with US President Barack Obama in the White House, and present him with the traditional bowl of shamrock, Ireland's three-leafed floral emblem.
Obama was to get a copy of the birth certificate of his great-great-great-grandfather who emigrated from Moneygall almost 160 years ago. The village is in the central county of Offaly, Cowen's power base.
Cowen's office says talks were to focus on the global economic crisis and recent developments in British-ruled Northern Ireland, where two soldiers and a policeman were killed in the first such deaths in over a decade.
St. Patrick's Day is one of the most recognised national holidays on the global calendar and is an excuse to party from Pretoria to Paris, Warsaw and Washington.
Ireland has a worldwide diaspora of 70 million people, of whom 44 million live in the US. The patron saint, whose feast day has been in the Christian calendar since the ninth century, is credited with converting the country to Christianity.
AFP / Expatica