Irish-American Heritage Month

Everyone knows (well, those who can keep track of holidays at least. My ex-husband never knew when Halloween was. Surprised him every year. But anyway…) March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, and the stores are full of all sorts of ridiculous green things, kind of like Mardi Gras with nothing but green. Chicago dyes its river green for the occasion, green beer gets served in pseudo-Irish pubs (also known as ‘plastic Paddies’)  in the U.S. (seriously, *blech*), New York holds its famous parade and everyone wears green and gets to pretend they’re Irish for the day. I understand none of this nonsense used to go on in Ireland. It was a holy day of obligation when Catholics attended Mass, and would have a special family meal, so it was more like Easter or Christmas than a drunken street party. They started holding parades to appease the visiting Americans who didn’t understand why there were no parades.

As a person of Irish descent, I can appreciate the celebration of Ireland, which is pretty much what it’s morphed into over the years, but as a Pagan, I gotta say I am not so taken with what Patrick did to Ireland. So I’m doing things a little differently this year. There will be no St. Patrick’s Day post. I will instead celebrate all things Irish as often as I can.

March is designated “Irish History Month” in Britain, with the intention of promoting “a greater understanding of Ireland and the Irish, to value the many positive contributions that Irish people have made to life in Britain, and to introduce new audiences to the vibrancy of Irish arts and culture.”

Over here, we have the obscure and little-known Irish-American Heritage Month. The month of March is dedicated to  appreciating the contributions of Irish-Americans. Apparently George H.W. Bush made the first designation in 1991, and it has been so decreed every year since, to very little fanfare.

Little known fact: The Scottish Highlands were originally settled by Irish. The old Latin name for Ireland was ‘Scotia’, and, you guessed it, gave us “Scotland.” Which goes to show the Romans were well aware of Ireland, so why they never got around to invading/settling there is anyone’s guess.

If you’re Irish, celebrate your heritage this month. If you’re not, or aren’t sure, I’m sure the Irish will adopt you. They absorbed most of the invaders (Vikings, Normans).

This here video has it all: The Chieftains, Carlos Nuñez, tin whistles, fiddling, uillean pipes, the Galician gaeta (another form of bagpipes, also pumped by elbow), and some amazing step dancing. As near as I can figure out, this was a televised show called Concertos das Estrelas from 2004. Nuñez is from Galicia, a Celtic region in the northwest corner of Spain (not to be confused with the Eastern European Galicia, a region on the east side of the Carpathian mountains). He’s the younger guy playing the penny whistle in the beginning with Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, and later we see each of them playing pipes: Carlos on the gaeta, and Paddy with the Irish uillean pipes. Don’t miss the step dancers about 4 1/2 minutes in.

And as Frank Delaney tweeted out last St. Patrick’s Day, “Getting drunk doesn’t mean you’re Irish; it means you’re drunk.”

Éirinn go Brách!


23 thoughts on “Irish-American Heritage Month

  1. jmgershom says:

    Yeah, yeah, I know! I can’t go to sleep, so I stumbled onto your post. I may have mentioned my Scottish roots with my grandpa (dad’s side) being born and grew-up in Edinburgh. On my mom’s side is Irish. I admit to being caught-up in all the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day through the years, but recently, I don’t celebrate holidays anymore. I even had to work on my 50th birthday. Yet, I’m very happy with my Gaelic roots. Maybe someday I’ll even travel there and go into one of the rural pubs, then buy everyone a pint. 😀 I sometimes feel that in my current life, I’m a displaced soul. It could be I need to go there. Crazy? Thank you for all the research you compiled about this day and sharing it with everyone…especially those, like us, who are intertwined with a common heritage. 🙂


  2. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I completely get you what you mean about feeling displaced. I think that’s what fueling my research and obsession with all this. It’s like being an amnesiac, and wandered off and wound up here, or like I’m listening for a message in a noisy crowd, and I can’t quite hear it.

    Get some sleep! 🙂


  3. gypsyscarlett says:

    Looking forward to seeing what things on Irish ancestry you bring to us this month. I’m sure they’ll be lots of fun and interesting. Your posts always are.

    *giggles* Regarding Halloween, didn’t he notice all the costumes and extra candy in the stores? hee hee!


  4. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Thanks, Tasha. Yeah, you wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but… It’s not like it’s a moveable feast, same calendar day every single year. Oh well, I should probably not go there 😉


  5. startingoveringermany says:

    Years ago I tried the green beer to see what was the fuss, until I understood it was food coloring, lol. Taste no different. That was the first and last night we celebrated St. Patty days. Never truly understood the why it was only celebrated by drinking. Thank goodness for your post to shine a light on the upcoming event. This insight is truly different from what I have known or seen each year.
    This month in my cooking group the theme is “I might not be Irish but I can cook/bake like one”. I hope you take no offense to it when the post is up. Participants will make a dish from Ireland. I hope to make you proud:)


    • maryjblog says:

      Startingover, make sure you tell the cooking group that corned beef & cabbage is a completely American invention and that nobody eats it in Ireland. Over there, they eat bacon and cabbage, which is totally delicious, but the bacon is nothing like what we know of it in the U.S. – is soft and meaty and sort of like our idea of ham, but not exactly. It really was one of my favorite things to eat over there – next to the Guiness!


      • startingoveringermany says:

        HI Maryj, I love me some Guinness too but can’t drink it straight. I learned from my mother to use it in juices mostly carrot with beet juice and it use in a tradition Easter bun. I will write what you have mention in my post in a few more weeks. In the cooking group there are pretty much the same people participating when it comes to sharing recipes. I don’t want to offend someone if they do come up with this idea:) I take it as no offense but sometime some people are a little finicky…sad to say. I have been looking for recipes over the net all week and still can not find anything low in fat and good in calorie wise. I been anal about my health and made a promise to myself to have a conscious before I eat. I am sure I have to alter the recipes but I don’t want to take too much away from the traditional recipes. So far I only have an idea to make soda bread. I am sure many will too, but I plan already to do it with a twist and to make it small…also as a side with another traditional dish. Still planning and thinking.


      • rosie49 says:

        And please do not forget the invention of the green bagel for St. Patty. Can you think of anything more bizarre than green bread with white cream cheese and orange lox….. wait a minute… isn’t that the Irish tricolour?


  6. Susannah Bianchi says:

    I didn’t know any of this. Love the history. As you know New York City celebrates big on St. Pattys Day. Police and barricades as far as the eye can see. I think your idea of honoring Ireland every day is a much nicer one.


  7. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I think my hs band actually marched in the parade one year, but I’ve never been to NY for it. It’s just reached ridiculous proportions. I think it’s a shame most Irish-Americans know so little about their heritage.


    • maryjblog says:

      I marched in the parade that year – not only was it the most un-Irish experience I can think of, it really had very little to do with the New York City I have come to know and love. Just a bunch of bridge-and-tunnel drunks carrying on.

      p.s. startingover – I tried to find you the recipe, but it wasn’t online – Guy Fieri watched the owner of an Irish pub make mashed potatoes from scratch, then mix in little bits of corned beef (I know, I know – but where ya gonna get that delicious Irish bacon?) He put a scoop of the mixture on a steamed cabbage leaf, rolled it up, and steamed it just a little more – I gotta say, not exactly low fat, but it looked pretty good!


      • startingoveringermany says:

        My goodness Maryj, your description is picture clear! Sounds really tasty. Would actually love to have a small plate of it right now. Yesterday night I was looking through Amazon Irish food cookbooks and trying to get ideas since there are pretty much the same type of food on the net. After hours of looking I found one that gave me an idea for me to still enjoy the theme, stay on my diet, and most importantly enjoy the meal. All I can say there will be just one traditional item surrounded with low tasty cal. I am not even going to attempt making the soda bread. I still have tons of bread in the freezer I am working on. I save it for next time or perhaps once the loaf of breads or finish from the freezer. I thank you though for looking for looking, that was very nice of you because I was stuck big time!


  8. startingoveringermany says:

    lol, green bagels? First time hearing about it but for some reason it does not surprise me nor McDonald. I guess when some people think about St. Patrick day they think about alcohol, the color green, and the 4 clover leaf. I know in the past I associate it with a pot of gold and a leprechaun because of the four clover leaf. Older I just associate with the the leaf.

    DD, does the leaf as anything even associated with Ireland and how did the 4 clover came into the picture of St. Patrick day?


    • D. D. Syrdal says:

      I think it’s more the shamrock as a symbol of St. Patrick. The story is that he used the 3 leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as One – the same way the three leaves are joined to one stem on the shamrock. Four-leafed clover is supposed to be lucky since they are rare. I could probably do a whole post about that 😉


  9. Mae East by Shannon Hadley says:

    Ahh, loved the video you posted. Definately made me feel the Irish in me.
    Funny you mentioned the Irish-American month. Until my husband mentioned it the other day, I had no idea there was such a thing. We like to think we celebrate Irish-ness all year though 🙂


  10. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Hi Shannon,
    With a name like that it doesn’t get much more Irish! 😀 Thanks for coming by, glad you enjoyed the video. There certainly are some stellar Celtic musicians out there.

    March seems to be dedicated to all sorts of things (National Craft Month, Women’s History Month, etc.), I’m not surprised no one has heard of Irish-American Heritage Month. Definitely celebrate your heritage all year, it’s too good to pack away after a short month.


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