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Luck of the Irish shines on Okinawa City

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2012-03-16

If Irish eyes were smiling on central Okinawa a year ago, all of Ireland is getting ready to smile this St. Patrick’s Day.

Okinawa City is to be THE happening place Saturday afternoon as bagpipes kick off the 6th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Park Avenue Parade. It’s a scene to be repeated elsewhere in Japan, where several cities have already tried their Irish luck, and others will do so over the weekend.

Here in Okinawa, though, everything will be coming up green as Paddy Mac’s Irish Pub joins with city leaders in creating a bigger, better St. Patrick’s Day Parade and celebration,. As Martin McIntyre, Paddy Mac’s owner says, on St. Patrick’s Day Everyone Is Irish! With that as the standard, everyone is being invited to share an afternoon of live entertainment plus a parade.

The parade makes its way down B.C. Street beginning at 2 p.m., with the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band belting out the music There will be Irish food, Guinness, the Hash House Harriers, the Kokeshi Roller Dolls and plenty of entertainment to make the event loads of fun. McIntyre, who conjured up the holiday festivities idea six years ago and successfully sold it to the merchants surrounding his Paddy Mac’s Irish Pub, is again teamed with the city to draw attention—and tourists, shoppers and party revelers—to Okinawa City.

Paddy Mac’s will be serving up a variety of home cooked foods, including Irish Stew, Shepherd’s Pie (a minced beef and mashed potatoes dish with a cheese topping), Fish & Chips, Three Way Chili, Chicken and Chips, and home made apple pie with cream. Paddy Macs will be serving up Guinness, Kilkenny, Bass, Black & Tan, Half and Half, as well as Irish Car Bombs and Irish Coffee.

To the south, the Seamen’s Club Naha is going all-out for St. Patrick’s Day from Noon ~ 9 p.m. The $19.95 special includes Irish Potato Cakes, Dublin Corned Beef & Cabbage, Steak & Guinness Pie, Irish Dream Cream and Luck 'O the Irish Brownies.

On base, Marine Corps Community Services has events at all its clubs on island. Tomorrow the BeachHead at Camp Schwab and Tengan Castle at Camp Courtney have a traditional St. Patrick’s Day lunch buffet from 11 a.m. ~ 2 p.m., including Guinnness stew, corned beef and cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Legends Officers’ Club at Camp Courtney will be offering complimentary Irish hors d’oeuvres from 5 ~ 11 p.m. On Saturday evening, Thirsty’s at MCAS Futenma and Surfside Camp Kinser will be offering traditional Reuben sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage, or Guinness Stew. The Palms’ Enlisted Lounge at Camp Hansen, the Ocean Breeze at Camp Foster and Hashmarks at Camp Courtney will be celebrating with finger foods, music and Irish giveaways and karaoke.

St. Patrick’s Day is also a day of ‘green’, with special events parties at the Kadena Officers Club today through Saturday. Check out the green beer today from 4 p.m. to closing, Emerald & Gold Night tomorrow from 9 p.m. to closing, and the St. Patrick’s Day Party Saturday 9 pm. to closing.

And what makes Saint Patrick’s Day such a special day, you ask? Well, it’s the annual feast day celebrating one of the patron saints of Ireland, Saint Patrick, who lived around 385~461. It’s a national holiday in Ireland, a bank holiday in Northern Ireland, and a popular—but not official or legal—holiday in Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The feast day typically falls during Lent, and is accompanied by combinations of parties, parades, foods and green…lots of green! That spawned from Ireland’s good luck symbol, the shamrock. The first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade was organized by the Charitable Society and held in 1761 in Boston. New York City’s celebration began in 1762, and has now become the largest of the St. Patrick’s Day parades with more than 150,000 participants and over two million spectators.

Ireland’s cities—Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford—stage the country’s major parades, but rest assured, parades also take place in villages and towns throughout the country. The biggie, though, is the Dublin St. Patrick’s day parade, which attracts well over one-half million people as it takes place as part of a five-day festival.

The religious side of St. Patrick’s Day leads to some variations on the celebrations, but not this year. In years when the holiday falls on a Friday, some Roman Catholic bishops will grant special dispensation, called an indult, from the no-meat Friday. In years when the holiday is on a Sunday, the religious observance switches to Monday, while the public holiday, which is fixed by the State calendar, continues as normal.

The shamrock’s holiday involvement transcends religion, with its three-leaves being used to explain the Holy Trinity in pre-Christian years. “Wearing of the green” was a sign of loyalty or Irish nationalism in the ancient days. Oddly enough, green was not the original St. Patrick’s color; that would be blue. Ireland began adapting and accepting the green as its symbol somewhere around the 1950’s.

Rest assured, the Irish—whether home grown or transplanted descendants—know how to throw a party. The parades are the foundation of holiday traditions, and are staged in hundreds of communities around the world. Even on the tiny island of Monserrat, known to many as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean thanks to its foundation by Irish refugees from Nevis and Saint Kitts, celebrates. Monserrat celebrates so much, it’s the only place outside of Ireland and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador where St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday.

So, laddies and lassies, put on the green and celebrate…at least a wee lil’ bit.

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