By Javier Aja
Dublin, Mar 16 (EFE).- St. Patrick’s Day once again is returning to the towns and cities in Ireland for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, with the focus of attention on the iconic parade in Dublin, one of the world’s largest street festivals.
According to tradition, the annual festival for Ireland’s patron saint will kick off with the big parade, with the “guest of honor” this year being US actor John C. Reilly, who is of Irish heritage and who has promised “a lot of ‘craic,'” which in Gaelic – the ancient language of Ireland that is still used today in certain parts of the country – means “fun” and “partying.”
The Hollywood star, in a media encounter in Dublin, said that it will be a real honor to “greet and smile” with the half million or so people who will jam the streets of the country’s capital to watch the parade.
This year, for the first time, the St. Paddy’s Day celebration on March 17 will extend through the weekend all over the country, given that the government has added one more holiday to the annual calendar, Friday, as an “award” for the efforts made by the public to deal with the pandemic.
The programming in Dublin includes assorted live performances, theater, film showings, circuses, cabarets, comedy and a wide-ranging set of musical concerts at night: the so-called “Festival Quarter Nights.”
In addition, the national gastronomy and handicrafts will be featured at the Irish Food and Design Village, where visitors can enjoy and take part in traditional Irish dancing in the open air.
Reilly said that in Ireland “good things happen,” if one is open to them, and “it’s a special place” for that reason. He said that he thought that the local residents’ good sense of humor and musical talent is why the Emerald Isle is so popular with tourists.
This year, the emerald green that is one of Ireland’s national colors will mix with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag in a sign of solidarity with that wartorn East European country, which was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24 and is being battered by aerial and artillery bombardments by Moscow’s troops.
Reilly said that his participation in the parade had great significance for him “as an Irish-American,” adding that Ireland is opening up again, adding that his late father would be proud of him.
It was Reilly’s father who inculcated him with love for the island during his childhood in Chicago, many residents of which trace their roots to Ireland.
Since the start of the 17th century, St. Patrick’s Day – which has now spread around the world wherever the Irish have settled – has drawn multitudes of people each year to pay homage to the bishop who brought Christianity to the wild island west of Britain.
Organizers of this year’s Dublin post-pandemic festivities hope that it will be the most ambitious event of its kind to date, with the festival program once again uniting people for the first time in three years with the Gaelic toast “Slainte!” (“Cheers” or “To your health”).