No, the Liffey isn’t dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Chicago River is now an emerald green in preparation for the big day, but the river than runs through Dublin, the capital of Ireland, remains its not-so-natural murky complexion.

A few gallons of green dye aren’t all that separates St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland from those in the United States, which has adopted the holiday as its own.

Ireland is ranked the 124th most populated country in the world, sandwiched on the population chart between Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, and far behind Cuba, Haiti and Madagascar. It’s not at all a myth that sheep outnumber people two to one on the Emerald Isle.

So why is Irish culture so important to America?

The answer may be that there are many more people of Irish ethnicity living outside Ireland than living within its boundaries. In addition, the Irish were some of America’s most numerous immigrants in the 18th and 19th century.

And, as any Irishman would be quick to tell you, many of America’s most famous figures have been of Irish descent, including about half of the nation’s 43 presidents.

The Irish are prominent, in part, because they’re anything but humble. A typical Irishman might look at the cover of Thomas Cahill’s book, “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” and say, “Well, duh.”

The tiny island has created cultural forces irresistible to America, such as the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the music of Van Morrison and U2 and the last James Bond, Pierce Brosnan.

Or better yet, America, including Western New York, may be in love with Irish culture simply because it’s fun to be Irish sometimes. In some ways, it’s a license to use or abuse your wit, gab and unapologetically short temper to charm any room.

And on St. Patrick’s Day in America, everyone’s Irish. There’s no talk of Ian Paisley or dreadful social inequalities in Northern Ireland. There’s just green beer, your worst leprechaun impression and sunglasses shaped like shamrocks.

Who’s Ian Paisley, anyway?

We also seem to be in love with their destructive tendencies. The Irish didn’t invent beer, but some might say they perfected drinking it. The secret: drink a lot.

They do hold a solid claim for inventing whiskey, they can thank their monks for that, but the Scottish, who spell it without the “e,” perfected it.

Alcohol isn’t something to mess with. Looking for green beer in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day is like trying to find a good meal there.

Everything is bigger in America. The parade across the O’Connell Bridge in Dublin is festive, but it pales in comparison to parades in New York City, Boston and Chicago and is rivaled by Buffalo.

St. Patrick’s Day, a festival to remind the Irish of their spiritual savior, has become a tremendous explosion of Irish culture. The United States takes the Irish spirit and borrows it for a weekend.

And for that weekend, we’re reminded how delightful it is to revel in the Irish heritage of ours and others.

Contact Eric O’Connor at 693-1000, Ext. 115, or

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