by Christie Kelley
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Since I blog on the 17th of every month, each year I get the honor of writing something about St. Patrick’s Day. Being ¾ Irish (in case you couldn’t figure that out by my last name), it is an honor and privilege to write about my ancestry. This year, instead of writing about St. Patrick, I though it might be nice to talk about the Irish in America.
In 1845, 75% of the potato crop was devastated by the potato blight. This was more than just a crop that the farmers sold for money. This was their food. The potato made up the majority of their nutrition. People ate them for three meals a day and some references stated that the Irish men ate between 12-14 pounds of potatoes a day!
So when the famine hit, these poor uneducated people had nothing. Approximately, 1 million people died during the famine years of 1845-1852. But another million left Ireland, hoping for a better life in a new country. Most headed to the US, Canada and Australia. Unlike other emigrations, women were just as likely to leave as men.
Once they arrived in the US, instead of heading back to farms, they stayed in cities and found poverty and terrible conditions in tenements. Desperate for work, they took the jobs no one else wanted. They built bridges, railroads, became servants, and worked in mines. But they taught their children the value of an education so their children wouldn’t be stuck in the same jobs. Over the next few generations, the Irish moved into the fire and police departments, and in major cities worked to get their candidates elected into office.
I’m proud of my Irish heritage. My relatives left Ireland and settled in upstate New York as factory workers. My great-grandfather became a renowned eye, ears, nose and throat specialist with offices in New York City and upstate.
Today, we celebrate more than St. Patrick’s Day. We celebrate our Irish traditions, and I will be making corned beef and potatoes for dinner. I never learned the Irish dances but several of my nieces have taken lessons and participated in competitions in Ireland. One day soon, I make a trip to Ireland.
I leave you with an Irish blessing:
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!
If you’re Irish, what does St. Patrick’s Day mean to you? If not, I’d love to hear about your heritage and special customs. And if you're been Ireland, tell us about it!