The 45-minute panel discussion was filled with insightful and nostalgic conversations. From reminiscing on St. Patrick's Day from the past to the big question: Do the Irish eat corned beef and cabbage?

Hosted by Kate Hickey, editorial director at Irish Studio, speakers included Niall O'Dowd, founder of Irish America Magazine, Irish Voice, and IrishCentral.com; Jim McCann, founder and chairman of 1-800-Flowers.com, Anna McGowan, interim director of the St. Patrick's Festival, and Ciaran Cannon, member of Dáil Éirean and former minister for the Diaspora. 

The event covered the traditions behind St. Patrick's Day, why we celebrate, and how celebrations have changed over the years, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. A major area of the discussion focused on the depth of connection felt by Irish Americans and the Irish Diaspora, and the pride felt by the global Irish annually on March 17.

The first rumor that was put to bed was whether St. Patrick's Day was invented by the Americans. This was found to be untrue, with both Niall and Ciaran recalling St. Patrick's Day memories from their youth. With both of them agreeing there was a strong emphasis on religion and an overwhelming seriousness felt towards the day.

Yet, they explained it was only after the Americans began to put their own spin on the holiday and celebrate with joyful parades, that the Irish began to reconsider how they marked the occasion. Niall gave further insight into how the Irish in America took such pride in St Patrick's Day, explaining it was a "devotion to the idea of Ireland that they left behind but also the Ireland that they were creating in America."

Back on the Emerald Isle, the Dublin parade was the first big expression of the new way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and this slowly trickled to places all around the country. Now, no matter how big or small, every village and town will celebrate in their own unique way. Ciaran commented that funnily enough, every year there are playful arguments between villages on who has the smallest parade.

Anna went on to explain that the St Patrick's Festival Committee was only founded in 1997, which is incredible considering the global attraction the parade has achieved in such a short period of time. Nowadays the festival prides itself on putting a strong emphasis on cultural inclusion and recognizing the brilliance of other nationalities appreciating and celebrating Irish heritage.

The panel also discussed what a post-pandemic St. Patrick's Day will look like. Anna expressed that the St. Patrick's Day Festival plans on putting a focus on remembrance for next year's event. She also revealed that due to high demand, applications have already opened for their  2024 marching band spaces, which shows the level of interest of people wanting to return to Ireland.

Lastly, the panel was asked to name a significant moment or thing that makes them think of Ireland. Jim from 1-800 Flowers.com shared his memory of Bill Clinton traveling to Ireland and how he felt this cemented the relations between Ireland and America. Ciaran chose the phenomenon of Riverdance and Niall picked the unforgettable Ireland vs. Italy soccer match and the emotion of hearing the Field of Athenry played in the stadium. Anna chose a beautiful poem that was commissioned by the festival called My Ireland by Stephen James Smith, which she says gives a powerful insight into contemporary Ireland.

The event was an overall success, and here at IrishCentral, we are very grateful for everyone who tuned in and celebrated St. Patrick's Day with us.

Whether the Irish eat corned beef and cabbage? Well, you'll need to watch back on the live stream to answer that question! If you're interested in learning about the event here and the topics that were discussed, click here. A big thank you to our partner 1-800 Flowers and to all the speakers who took part and helped us mark St. Patrick's Day in a special way.

This March we want to hear from you! Share your St. Patrick's Day stories using the #ShareYourIrish hashtag and be in with the chance to win one of three great prizes from 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., and its family of brands. Did you dress up, have a small party, or perhaps you have a wonderful March 17 memory you'd like to share with? Let us know by visiting our sweepstakes page to find out more. Entries close on March 29 so don’t miss out!

Here are just a few of the great submissions we’ve received so far:

“St. Patrick's day is a day filled with fun for me and my friends. We love dressing up wearing green, pinching people without green on, and hitting the local Irish pub for some green beers and Irish music! It's just a day to celebrate and enjoy each other's company.” - Daniel Pham   

“My family lived in Ireland for a year while I was in graduate school, and we miss it every day. We remain connected to our Irish friends via video chats and mail. We pay tribute to them - and to our Irish ancestors - by playing traditional Irish music, making Irish foods, and reliving our experiences there. Ireland and its people are part of our hearts, and we celebrate that every day.” - Patricia Richards-Service

Feeling inspired? Use #ShareYourIrish to be in with the chance to win with 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., and its family of brands. 

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