Figure 1.--Children doing Irish step dancning wear traditiinal outfits. The boys often wears jackets and kilts. This fashion, however, is of modern origins.
The Irish are one of the principal European ethnic groups in countries around the world. They often outnumber other European ethnic groups coming from muchn larger countries. There are perhaps 70 million people around the world that identify as being Irish. That is nearly 20 times the population of modern Ireland. The Irish are one of the most important ethnic groups that have made modern in America. More than 40 million Americans identify as being Irish Americans, more than one out of every 10 Americans. The immigrants, like each successive immigrant group, did not have an easy time of it. But the Irish have succeded, reaching the Presidency and the Supreme Court. Irish Americans from the beginning looked back at their misty, green island. Ethnic frstivals, music and dance are emensly popular. Like Scotland, the kilt is seen as ethnic folk dress and is worn by Irish pipe bands and step dancers.
The Irish are one of the principal European ethnic groups in countries around the world. They often outnumber other European ethnic groups coming from muchn larger countries. There are perhaps 70 million people around the world that identify as being Irish. That is nearly 20 times the population of modern Ireland. The Irish have major populations in both Britain and America, but also Australia, Canada, and New Zealand as well as a host of other countries around the world. The history of the Irish is one of discrimination and struggle, but in all the countries where they arrived in numbers, the Irish played a major role in both the building of the countries and in the development of religious freedom. Descendants of Irish immigrants over the past four centuries,
crossed the Atlantic in successive waves of emigrations. The most important folowed the potato famine of the 1840s. Then between 1845 and 1847, a terrible disease struck Ireland's potato crop,
upon which many people depended for food. Potato crops died, causing a
terrible famine and about 750,000 starved to death. Thousands fled from Ireland in the infamous coffin ships. They went not only to England and America, but Australia, Canada, Neww Zealand, and other countries as well.
Every March 17th in cities around America, Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day. There is a festive parade in New York City and many other towns. All around the country Americans wear green and toast one another with Irish coffee--a coffee drink with Irish whiskey added to it. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is associated with Ireland, but Irish parades until recently were rather tepid events compared to the event in New York, Boston, Chicago, and other American cities. Irish Americans from the beginning looked back at their misty, green island. Ethnic frstivals, music and dance are emensly popular. They are show cases for Irish dance and music, but generally lack the athletic competitions or the sheep dog trials of Higland gatherings. Irish Americans also hold feises, evolving from frstivals held throughout Ireland. Feises are now competitions, primarily for Irish dancers, but also often Irish music, cooking, and language as well.
Like Scotland, the kilt is seen as ethnic folk dress and is worn by Irish pipe bands and step dancers. The Irish kilt worn today is a relatively recent recreation by the modern Irish to create the trapings of Irish identity after several centuries of attempts to anglicize them. The English almost suceeded in stamping out the Irish language, but failed to reduce the people's alegince to the Catholic church. While a recent creation, the Celtic people of Ireland dis once wear kilts.
rish dance has developed quietly in Ireland for centuries. Irish immigrants brought their traditional dances to America beginning in the 1840s, driven from their homeland by the Great Famine. Their dances had a profound influence on
traditional American folk dances like square dancing and their music was a powerful ingredient in country music. Modern Irish dance, however did not begin to become popular until after World War II. The independence of Ireland in 1921, rising income levels after the War, and the increasing interest in Irish heritage by Irish Americans all contributed to the expanding interest in Irish dance. This interest was almost entirely within the Irish community until River Dance introduced Irish dancing to the public at large in the 1990s.
Ireland is one of the most modern and prospering European countries right
now. This is largely due to the HUGE influx of Euro-cash for all kinds of
capital projects. Ireland is changing so rapidly and in so many ways such as
in economics, culture, social trends, religious tolerance, etc., etc., that
the country is almost unrecognisable from what it was even 5 years ago let
alone 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Just see the huge amount of building
work going on in Dublin, Belfast, and other major centres of population
right now, and witness the exciting cross-border projects (currently on hold
due to the stupidity of certain political parties.) Ireland is prospering like no other European country right now. The stereotypical images of
drunken Irish leprechauns and folksie thatched cottages no longer applies and anyone who still belives that Ireland has remained unchanged over recent years is fantasising. Those offensive cards should be withdrawn. One Irish set dancer reports, "It's interesting for me to have seen how my conceptions have changed since I started set dancing a few years ago. I never made fun of the Irish, but for me St. Patrick's day was about wearing green, clovers, and funny accents (and putting O' in front of something to make it Irish, like Bennigan's new O'Cajun grilled shrimp). When so many people are ignorant, it's a simple matter for greeting cards and beer companies to define a holiday, and by
reflection, a people."
St. Patrick's Day is one of many ethnic holidays celebrated in America. It is the most widely recognized of all the ethnic celebrations. This is fitting as about 30 million Americans identify themselves as being Irish. That is 10 times the population of Ireland itself.
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