Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th commemorates the most recognizable of Ireland’s patron saints and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland centuries ago. It’s a day noted for prayer, parades, food and drink in communities across the United States. But in Yonkers, New York, there is an Irish enclave that locals insist is more Irish than Ireland.
To the people of McLean Avenue, an Irish enclave just north of New York City, Saint Patrick’s Day means Music….Food….Drink….Fun.
Eileen’s Country Kitchen serves as an unofficial Irish headquarters. The establishment is known for its soda bread and other Irish comfort foods.
Owner Eileen Mannion Collum came to the United States 25 years ago and is proud of her Irish heritage, but she loves her adopted country, too.
“You could be what you want to be in America if you work hard, believe in yourself, have good ethics and you have compassion," Collum says. "Because I don’t think you have to think with here," she added pointing to her head. "I think if you think with here [the heart], you have compassion with your food, compassion with your customers.
Neighbor Peggy Dolan recalls her childhood in Ireland.
“Go out and pluck a little shamrock, put it in your buttonhole and off to mass," Dolan remembers. "We’d walk about two and one half miles to mass and home. It was a free day from school. It was a happy day."
A group of young Irish-American children will be dancing up New York City’s Fifth Avenue in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
"I’m going to go to the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the city and I am going to dance. It’ll really be fun," says Kasey Van Doran, who is 12 years old.
“It’s just like wow!" exclaims traditional Irish dancer Sarah Johns.
“It will be my first time doing it. I am so excited!" confides traditional Irish dancer Fiona McDonald.
Ditto for dance instructor Bridget Flynn.
“Those girls that work hard at it tend to do very well. And they really like it," Flynn says. "There is great self satisfaction in being able to achieve this kind of a dance.”
Other Irish traditions are also on tap for Saint Patrick's Day, including a traditional meal at Eileen's.
“Now I have my corned beef freshly cut, place it on top…this is what everyone’s going to be havin’ on Saint Patrick’s Day,” explains owner Collum.
Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes are top sellers at Eileen's every Saint Patrick’s Day.