Today, President Barack Obama welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland to the United States and commemorated his fourth St. Patrick's Day at the White House. As in previous ceremonies, the Taoiseach presented the U.S. president with a bowl of shamrocks, a symbol of unity. This annual "shamrock ceremony" at the White House dates back decades and symbolizes the close friendship between the United States and Ireland.
This evening, President Obama and the First Lady will host a St. Patrick's Day reception at the White House, which was designed by an Irish architect who used as his model the grandest building he knew -- Leinster House in Ireland. The festivities are taking place today, Tuesday, March 20, because St. Patrick's Day fell on a Saturday this year.
St. Patrick's Day, a holiday imported by Irish immigrants, is celebrated across the United States every March 17. It is the occasion for city-sponsored festivities and parades in many other countries, including Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Great Britain, and Ireland. The largest parades are held in Dublin (Ireland), New York City, Montreal, and Boston. The first recorded celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the American colonies was in Boston in 1737, and the first St. Patrick's Day celebration in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756.
The friendship between Ireland and the United States stretches back to the beginnings of both republics, and the ties of kinship, history, and shared values run deep. Irish Americans have played an integral role in making America a place of hope and opportunity. Throughout its history, America has welcomed millions of Irish immigrants to its shores. Today, the United States and Ireland share strong bilateral relations, maintain deep cultural ties, and work together on issues ranging from food security to human rights to advance positive change in the world.