St. Patrick’s Day gets all the love and notoriety, but since 1991 all 31 days of March have been proclaimed Irish-American Heritage Month. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush issued the first Presidential Proclamation and the tradition has continued. The proclamation is issued each February 28th, honoring Irish Americans and their ancestors for their contributions to American history and recognizing the historical prejudice against Irish immigrants.
“They endured prejudice and stinging ridicule,” this year’s proclamation reads. “But through it all, these new citizens never gave up on one of our oldest ideas: that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter in the American story. So they raised families and built communities, earned a living and sent their kids to school. In time, what it meant to be Irish helped define what it means to be American.”
You can read the entire proclamation here, but that’s less exciting than what comes after. Each proclamation traditionally ends by calling “upon all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs,” and this year, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your Irish heritage, from the solemn to the festive.
Every year, thousands of people mail self-addressed stamped envelopes to the postmaster of St. Patrick, Missouri. From March 1st to 31st, St. Patrick uses a unique cancel stamp wishing a very happy St. Patrick’s Day from St. Patrick itself. It had to get special permission from the federal government to do so, but for St. Patrick souvenir hunters, this one is a dearly beloved (and incredibly cheap) no-brainer. St. Patrick is the only town in the world named for the patron saint of Ireland.
For the past two years, Ireland’s Taoiseach has crossed the pond to celebrate the relationship of our two countries. In 2011 and 2012, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has presented President Obama with a crystal bowl filled with shamrocks. In recognition of the occasion, the White House also turns the fountain on the north lawn green. And, in case you forgot, the Chicago River also goes green for the celebration.
This year, more than water is turning green though. Tourism Ireland is continuing its world-wide “Global Greening” campaign, turning monuments and other popular attractions green in March. Ireland’s verdure will be represented in 44 cities this year, from Berlin to Giza and Vienna to Las Vegas. Popular sites include the Egyptian pyramids and sphynx, Niagra Falls, Berlin’s TV tower at Alexanderplatz, Christ the Redeemer in Rio, the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, and the famous Burj al Dubai.
Obviously, the 17th is the apex of celebrations, and if you’re looking for a parade near you, here’s the inventory, listed state by state. Céad míle fáilte!