Just as the Irish-American community north of Boston has evolved over the decades, its celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has changed with it.
A quick glance at the major events this week shows Irish culture and history featured as much as green hats, green beer, and corned beef and cabbage.
On March 1, President Obama proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month, and communities throughout the region are embracing the history and culture brought to this country from the Emerald Isle.
Brian O’Donovan, the host of WGBH-Boston radio’s weekly “A Celtic Sojourn” program and the producer of related celebrations of Irish culture, also has noticed an uptick in interest.
“It really has changed. It’s dramatically different from the time I arrived in Boston,” said O’Donovan, who immigrated to Boston from Ireland 32 years ago. “There’s a hunger for Irish culture. I definitely feel it.”
O’Donovan said the result is that the holiday is celebrated “in a much broader way than it was in the past.”
The Irish have deep roots in Lawrence and Lowell. Irish immigrants came to Lowell in the 1820s to work in the mills along the Merrimack River. During Ireland’s Great Potato Famine of the 1840s, immigrants searching for a better life also flocked to the area and to the neighboring community that would later be called Lawrence, helping to build the Great Stone Dam that still exists.
The Irish Cultural Week Committee in Lowell continues its 30th annual schedule of events Thursday night at 7 in the Federal Building at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, when native son Brian Mitchell, an urban and immigration historian, will be the featured speaker for The Acre Forum, named for the neighborhood that was home to Lowell’s first Irish immigrants.
Mitchell is the author of “The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-1861,” as well as a number of other books on Lowell and immigrant history.
After the presentation, the committee will present the first annual Anam Cara (“soul friend” in Celtic) Awards to seven people, including Mitchell, who have helped preserve and promote the city’s Irish culture.
“I’ve seen the interest in the cultural aspect really building over the past five years, especially among the younger people,” said Erin Caples, who has been around the event since its beginning and is one of 18 core members of the Lowell committee.
In Lawrence, the Ancient Order of Hiberians Division 8 and the city’s Irish Foundation continue their celebration with a traditional corned beef and cabbage luncheon on Friday, music all weekend, and a free Irish film festival Saturday. There is a lecture with an Irish author March 23, a free concert March 24, and a free art exhibit all month at Lorica Artworks on Main Street in Andover. Events continue all month.
Somerville is another hub for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. “The Irish and How They Got That Way,” a lighthearted look at the Irish experience written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, at the Davis Square Theatre, was scheduled to close on Sunday but has been so popular, it was recently extended to April 28.
Through Saturday, also in Davis Square, The Back Room at the The Burren Pub is presenting “The Fiddlers Of Inishbofin,” described is “an unforgettable comedy of mishaps, traditional Irish and contemporary music.” The Burren is one of many eating and drinking establishments that celebrate Somerville’s Irish roots.
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which steps off for the 252d year at 11 a.m. Saturday, will feature the Danvers High School Falcons Marching Band. NBC-New York is live-streaming the parade online.
Rich Fahey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.