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A Grand Day For The Irish

From the green fields of Dublin and the beaches of New Zealand to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and marble halls of Washington, the wit, wisdom, and luck of the Irish is being celebrated Wednesday.

A relatively low-key holiday in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day celebrations have become a staple around the globe, taking root in the communities where Irish immigrants settled.

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It was an Irish native who marked the day Wednesday in New Zealand by making a bungee jump wearing only painted green shamrocks on her body.

Cities across the United States are celebrating with bagpipe parades and corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner parties. In Washington, the president will accept a traditional bowl of shamrocks for the White House from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn and will host the annual St. Patrick's Day dinner. So large has this event become that it is being moved this year from inside the White House to the executive mansion's South Lawn.

In New York, screen star Maureen O'Hara lent a touch of glamour to one of the nation's largest St. Patrick's Day Parade, featuring thousands of marchers up Fifth Avenue.

O'Hara, the star of such classic movies as Miracle on 34th Street and The Quiet Man, waved and smiled broadly to the cheering crowds pressed againt police barricades.

"Being a [native] New Yorker, I think this is the greatest parade in the world," said Mickey McGovern, 55, a Brooklyn-born drug counselor who now lives in Greensboro, N.C., but drives up every year for the parade.

The luck of the Irish was evident as thousands of green-wearing, shamrock carrying paradegoers lined the avenue under beautiful, balmy spring skies.

A bagpipe band from Japan, the Tokyo Pipe Band, was to make its New York debut at the parade.

"There's a samurai spirit in the bagpipe. It's very evocative, invigorating, uplifting especially the marching tunes," Japanese Consul General Seiichiro Otsuka said.