A Look At St. Patrick's Day, In Las Vegas And Ireland


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The celebration of St. Patrick's Day is much different in Las Vegas than it is in Ireland.


For many of us, St. Patrick's Day is an occasion to claim a long-lost bit of Irish heritage, even if it's not really in your family tree.

The holiday conjures up images of people finding anything and everything green to wear, and just maybe imbibing a bit more than usual.

 But the Americanized version of St. Patrick's Day is distinctly American. In Ireland, it's a bit different.

"Obviously, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland," Honorary Consul of the Republic of Ireland Terry Murphy told KNPR's State of Nevada. "In years past, in Ireland, it was considered a holy day. Bars were closed, people went to Mass and it was a quiet day with family and friends. Now, however, it's evolved into a celebration -- a global celebration -- of the 70 million people around the world who call Ireland home."

Cian McMahon is an assistant professor of history at UNLV, and is originally from Ireland. He said St. Patrick's Day has been used as a way for people to make a mark.

"St. Patrick and his day have always proved to be an opportunity for one community or another to justify or legitimate their position in a community, or in terms of power," he said. "St. Patrick is around in the 400s. A couple of hundred years later, there's a power struggle going on in the medieval church in Ireland, and one of the bishoprics in Armagh claimed that Patrick founded the church and was buried there as part of a power play to use St. Patrick to legitimize the church."

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Shaun Leonard is an MFA student at UNLV, originally from County Galway. He said, despite his classmates disinterest in celebrating due to the holiday falling during the school week, he was looking forward to St. Patrick's Day.

"They were like, 'I've got papers to write," he said. "That's kind of the response I get. I'm excited to see what Las Vegas has to offer for it, because I've only really celebrated [St.] Patrick's Day in America once properly -- in Chicago with the green river and the people in Scottish kilts playing bagpipes in a boat around there. So, that was certainly a different experience to back home."

Leonard said his generation was hit hard by the global economic recession, and because of that, many Irish his age have considered leaving the country.

"A lot of people were coming out with degrees and not really having any opportunities for those," he said. "So, a lot of emigration was and is happening. People would go, 'I don't know -- I don't want to give up and go somewhere else,' which is never really something that entered into my mind. I was just like, well, no -- this seems like a good opportunity. I'd like to go somewhere and study these things."

But, according to Consul Murphy, things in Ireland are looking up.

"You wouldn't think of it, but Ireland is suggested by Forbes as one of the best places in the world to do business," she said. "We have nine out of the top 10 global pharmaceutical firms, nine of the top 10 technology companies, nine of the top 10 software companies and 3,300 global firms call Ireland their European base."

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Terry Murphy, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Ireland; Cian McMahon, assistant professor, UNLV; Shaun Leonard, MFA student, UNLV

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