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April and Colum at the McLean Avenue parade in Yonkers last year. Photo by: Handout

The Irish Homecoming: Marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at home but thinking of New York

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April and Colum at the McLean Avenue parade in Yonkers last year. Photo by: Handout

Snow, coughs, house-hunting, babysitting and parading . . . it’s all in a week’s work for APRIL DREW as she and her family look forward to St. Patrick’s Day.

The skies have opened up and it’s finally snowing here in Limerick.  In March!

It’s the first snowfall I have seen since our return to live in Ireland last May. We must be getting the tail end of the snow you guys in New York had last Friday.

And I say tail end for a reason, because there are only flurries of snow falling from the sky.  It’s not sticking, but forecasters are promising heavy bouts later tonight and early tomorrow so we will see.
Colum, our 2-year-old son, and Sadie, our 1-year-old daughter, own plenty of snow suits that I was given by friends while living in Yonkers. I’ve yet had to use them. I do hope we get some fun in the snow in the next few days.

So I hear its full steam ahead for St. Patrick’s Day in New York. Some parades have already taken place, and I hear they were a great success. John, my husband, and I spent nine St. Patrick’s Days in New York, and we had many good ones.

The first few years involved a lot of nights out in the city, visitors from Ireland sprawled out on the floor of our Yonkers apartments and a lot of fun memories created.

The Rambling House on Katonah Avenue always had the best bands around and McKeon’s on McLean was fierce lively too. I do miss those nights out.

The latter years were a little tamer, mainly when babies came along.  I was more of a spectator looking on rather than joining in the last few years and that was okay too. It’s not easy, as any parent knows, having a hangover and getting up the next morning with two smallies.
In 2011 I proudly marched my way up Fifth Avenue in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade. I had my son Colum (who was three-months-old at the time) with me, and together we marched with the Kerrymen’s Association. It was a proud moment in more ways than one.

The only downside was the craziness on the streets of the city.  It was certainly a challenge trying to maneuver through the crowds with the stroller, but it was worth it.  It was a memorable day and a beautiful one at that.

Last year my daughter, Sadie, was only three weeks old, so a trip into Manhattan with two babies under two was not an option on one of the busiest days of the year, and my husband was working.
However, we didn’t miss out.  In fact we were in for a real treat last year.

The McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade in Yonkers took place for the first time ever. It was held a week after Paddy’s weekend. 

Thousands of local Irish and Irish Americans marched up McLean Avenue, and it was a whole lot of fun. The weather was beautiful, the atmosphere was electric and everyone enjoyed themselves.
We even got to enjoy a few cold ones at Rory Dolan’s beer garden along the parade route. It was lovely to see so many people we knew march through the streets of their neighborhood so proudly.
I will miss that sense of pride this St. Patrick’s Day.  Living in Ireland means we are Irish and that is it. 

St. Patrick’s Day here is a 24-hour celebration and an excuse to take a day off work.  When we lived away (and it doesn’t matter where one lives) we automatically felt proud to call ourselves Irish.
We wore our nationality on our sleeve, especially during the whole month of March. It’s nice that in New York the parades (and there are many) are spread out throughout the month making them accessible to most.

I must admit, however, I am very excited about attending a parade in Ireland this year. We have two kids -- one with a bad cough at the moment -- so if the weather holds up and the cough subsides we will be joining the hordes of revelers on the banks of the Shannon to cheer on Limerick’s finest on Sunday morning.

Since we left Ireland they changed the rules a little. There is the big St. Patrick’s Day parade on the day itself, and the following day there is another parade featuring all the bands.  Most bands travel to the nation’s capital to participate in the big Dublin parade, so the following day they are afforded the opportunity to do it all again in their home town or city.

If we don’t make Sunday we might hit the streets instead on Monday. We are going to Tralee on Saturday (my home town) to cheer on one of my best friends, Deirdre Power, as she undertakes the insurmountable task of running a marathon, the first of its kind to be held in the town.

She has been training very hard for the past several months, sacrificing several things, to keep up with her training.  She has done a wonderful job, so as her friend it’s my duty (and honor) to be able to stand on the sidelines on Saturday shouting her name. Her sister Grainne is also running, and also several others I know.  It will be a good weekend for the town.

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