Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Irish Experience

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 war
m your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peac
e 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!


limecello said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day! :D

limecello said...

Ok, I'm not Irish... but for a period growing up I totally wanted to be. Actually, friends jokingly tell me/ ask if I'm Irish, because I love Irish Pubs. (Which is made even more spectacular when you know that... I don't drink beer.)
I love making potato pancakes/latkes, or having corned beef with friends when possible... But no real traditions for me - I do try to wear green. I actually was in Boston for St. Patty's day last year - no huge celebration for me though. (I know, I'm shocked too.)
We'll leave other traditions for another post. And I mean it in the nicest way possible - I love potatoes. It's such a perfect fit. I love the rich history, the folklore- wrote many a paper on that topic, the images and landscapes...
Éireann go Brách!

Helen said...

Congrats lime have fun with him

Loved the post Christie I am not Irish either but have Scottish and English bloodlines.

Here in Sydney we have a big St Paticks day parade which is going to held on Saturday and the Irish Pubs around go all out and one of the Ladies I work with is Irish and she went into the Rocks to do a Pub crawl today I am sure she will have a headache by now LOL.

Happy St Pats day everyone

Have Fun

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I am a wee little bit Irish but my ex and my son are a whole lot more. As I told my bf the other day, I love everything Irish. That is one of my dreams, to go to Ireland someday.
Corned beef and cabbage will be served at my house although cabbage is not Irish and that didn't start until they came to America. My son doesn't care for cabbage so he will want potatoes. He could eat potatoes 3 times a day and be very happy about it.

Deb said...

Top o' the mornin'to ye, Christie!

I'm not Irish, but have fun wearin o' the green on St. Patrick's Day.

When my daughter was in preschool, her teacher had turned over chairs, put books in the wrong places, did other silly things, and left a note on the board that the leprechaun had visited their room. Shary thought that was so neat, so I've tried doing that at home before I pick her up at the sitter's. Gulp, I forgot last year and she was SO disappointed that the leprechaun hadn't visited our house. She's in third grade this year and I think I'll try it one more time....

Have a great day! Think green!

PJ said...

Happy St. Paddy's Day! I have enough Irish ancestry in the melting pot to claim the holiday and I do so with enthusiasm. :) Tonight, it will be corned beef and potatoes but probably not beer. I'm wearing green and my lucky shamrock pin. My shamrock suncatcher hangs from the rearview mirror of my car, just as it has for the past 20 years.

Today is hospital volunteer day and I've made shamrock sugar cookies with green frosting to take with me to celebrate the day. I'll be making the rounds of the nurses stations before settling in at the info desk for an afternoon of St. Paddy's Day greetings.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi limecello, congrats on getting the GR today! You can dye his feathers green if you wish.

Christie Kelley said...

Limecello, you don't have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I just put the corned beef into the crockpot and I have my green sweatshirt on so I'm set.

Christie Kelley said...

Helen, I laughed when I read your post since it's not even 9am here. I was thinking for a moment, wow that friend of yours started early! I think I need another cup of coffee.

Christie Kelley said...

Dianna, I'm going to pass on the cabbage today and stick with the potatoes. Nobody really likes the cabbage in my house. My husband is Italian with a some Irish in him so our kids have an Italian last name but are more Irish than anything else.

Christie Kelley said...

Deb, what your daughter's preschool teacher did was fantastic. I wish I had thought of that. I would have done that with my kids when they were younger.

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Christie Kelley said...

PJ, I have a necklace and earring set that my sister bought me that has a real shamrock set inside it. I just put it on. Now I'm really feeling the holiday today.

Have a great day at the hospital!

Anna Sugden said...

Happy St Paddy's to all the Irish - especially my BIL and his family.

I'm not, as you all know, Irish - but English and proud of it! Our day is St George's Day - April 23rd.

To be honest, celebrations have only begun to happen again in recent years for us - we're an understated lot *g*.

I think with everyone else being so loud and proud about their nations and their flags, the English have started to do the same. You see many more St George's flags (white with a large red cross) around than you used to (and not just to support the footie and rugby).

In honour of the day, hubby is going to make some soda bread and we'll have stew for dinner with lots of lovely tatties!

Anna Sugden said...

Deb - what a great idea for your daughter!

Christie and PJ - uggh - I hate corned beef. Though your corned beef is slightly different from the one we have over here *g*.

PJ - send some of your lovely cookies this way!

Anna Sugden said...

Oh, forgot to say that I've been to Ireland a number of times. Love Dublin - such a vibrant city. Only ever been there on business and would like to go back sometime for fun.

Also done Killarny and Cork (yes, kissed the Blarney Stone and have the certificate to prove it!) and Waterford (though was too young by two days to do the factory tour!!). Would like to go back there sometime with hubby, who's never been.

My BIL's family are from Downpatrick, just outisde Belfast and we had a lovely trip there for their wedding. Unfortunately it was during all the troubles with the IRA *spit* - so would like to return now that things are calmer.

Deb said...

Guess what? When she woke up this morning, Shary said, "I wonder if the leprechaun will come to our house?" Guess that clinches it. I have got to go do some topsy-turvy things at our house before I pick her up this afternoon! :)

Christie Kelley said...

Hey, who let the English girl in? Just kidding, Anna! Happy St. Patrick's Day to you. Besides, I'm only 3/4 Irish, there is some English and Scottish in there too.

I would love to get to Ireland. My husband went with a friend several years ago and raved about it. Maybe next year if we can afford it.

Christie Kelley said...

Deb, have fun with that. I miss the days of the kids believing in things like that.

Kirsten said...

Hi Christie! I don't have any Irish heritage but my family emigrated to the US pretty recently. My mom was born in Latvia, and my dad's dad emigrated to the US from Lithuania not long before my dad was born. I did some folk dancing with a Latvian troupe for quite a few years when I was in grade school. I just loved it, and loved performing at all the ethnic festivals. But I must say I was always jealous of how cute and talented those Irish dancers were. We spun around in long, heavy wool skirts and vests and sensible black dancing shoes, while they had those cute little slippers and seemed to float over the ground. And the music was fantastic too. Yes, I had a little Irish-girl envy as a child! :-)

Happy St. Patty's Day to all!

Christie Kelley said...

Kirsten, I love to watch my nieces dancing. The wigs crack me up, though. Why do they think every Irish dancer needs to have curly hair? (asks the woman with curly hair)

I think it's so cool that your parents and grandparents immigrated so recently. Do you keep any of their traditions?

Gannon Carr said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! I can claim Irish ancestry--a wee bit, and I have the green eyes to go with it. ;-)

I've never been to Ireland, but it is at the top of my bucket list. I have a feeling once I get there, I'll never want to leave.

We'll be having Irish stew tonight. Although my hubby and I like corned beef and cabbage, my kids do not. We'll probably have some Guinness or Smithwick's, too. The hubby and I, not the kids. LOL


Joan said...

If you've been to Ireland tell you all about it?

Do you have enough blog space?? :-)

Seriously, I think it is hard to define what being Irish means to me. It is SUCH a visceral KNOWING...a sense of connection that goes beyond experience.

The beauty of that island is truly indescribable. You have to FEEL it. On arrival with my first trip it was cloudy, rainy, cold day. I was like "I spent thousands of dollars for this?"

But then I left the airport and it gut punched me. I belonged. I had been there in the past, I was there in the now and I would always be there.

Genetic experience? Maybe.

Personally, I believe it to be proof that God and heaven live there :-)

Now, off for a Paddy's day lunch at a local pub.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Gannon, my husband didn't want to come home from Ireland and he's only 1/4 Irish. The stew sounds good too and the beer.

Christie Kelley said...

Joan, we have all the room you need. Many of us haven't been to Ireland...yet!

Have a great lunch!

MsHellion said...

No, we're not fortunate enough to be Irish. :) But I love corned beef and cabbage, so I will be making that. And maybe some soda bread. And of course, potatoes.

Our families have been in America so long (since about the 1690s), most of us don't bother with previous world traditions. Our Colley side is Welsh; our St. Clair side is Scottish; and our Cleeton, Howell and Bacon sides are clearly English. I'm the only one in my immediate family who is United Kingdom mad and who watched Bonnet Movies non-stop.

"What? We're watching ANOTHER movie where the people talk in those weird accents?"

The closest thing to a family tradition we have is watching O Brother Where Art Thou, which makes Dad think of his boyhood days and is his idea of a GOOD MOVIE.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi MsHellion, my mother's side of the family has been here since the mid-1700s. I only saw O Brother Where Art Thou once and it didn't leave a lasting impression.

Enjoy your dinner tonight!

Anna Sugden said...

Interesting, Joanie. I have a split heart/soul I think, as I feel like I'm coming home whenever I land in the US (especially DC, NY or NJ) or in England. I definitely feel like I belong in both places - probably because I grew up in both places.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey - I'm Irish!
My maternal grandparents came over as children with their parents from County Cork and settled in Baltimore, MD. My grandfather died before I was born and my grandfather died while I was a baby - so I never really knew them, but I always thought my grandmother was my guardian angel when I was small and with me all the time. I'd love to go to Ireland someday...maybe it's my grandmother pulling me .

I'm wearing my fav bright green sweatshirt. I'll be making reuben sandwiches for dinner which isn't exactly Irish, but it does require corned beef, and is a favorite in my family. I expect my son to come for a visit just to have one. When the kids were little we used to spend the week before St Patrick's Day making leprechaun traps - luring them with some gold coins. Darn those leprechauns - they always managed to escape with the coins.

Anna - How is it I KNEW you'd kissed the blarney stone? Didn't even need to see the certificate (grin).

Anna Sugden said...

ROFL Donna - *blinks innocently* - I don't know!

Nancy said...

Joan, what a happy coincidence that your blog day should hit on this particular holiday!

WHEN you come to visit, I'll take you to a local pub imported, brick by brick, from Ireland. I have a vague memory that John Boorman's beautiful, if tragic, Excalibur was filmed in Ireland--all that rich, green countryside.

I'd love to see Ireland someday, but there are too many places in England and Scotland, not to mention Wales, I still haven't seen.

I have nothing green appropriate for today's weather, alas, and so will be making do without it.

I'm Scots-Irish on my mother's side, but we have no traditions we carried over. My dad was Spanish (by way of the Phillippines and the US Navy) and English, and he didn't emphasize cultural traditions, either.

The dh is Polish and Swedish, and we do have Swedish pancakes on Christmas morning. No lutefisk, which he loathes.

So the boy is truly a melting pot.

Limecello, congrats on the rooster!

Aly said...

Great post Christie!

I am Irish by marriage! So I get the fun of claiming that I am an Irish Jew :)

For St. Patty's Day we do Corned Beef & Cabbage with some Soda Bread. We try to get to a parade b/c I love listening to the bagpipes and watching the dancing!

I have not been to Ireland but the DH and I desperately want to go. We fear though, that once we go, we won't ever come home and that wouldn't go over too well with the kids we leave behind!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Christie Kelley said...

Donna, my relatives were from Kilkenny. And I think reuben sandwiches work just fine. I'm hoping there will be some left over corned beef for a reuben tomorrow.

Christie Kelley said...

Nancy, it's actually my day to blog but that's okay.

What's this? You have nothing green to wear? Sounds like a shopping trip is in order! Of course my green sweatshirt does have Tigger on it but I'm thinking he's an Irish cat.

Christie Kelley said...

Aly, Irish by marriage works. I feel the same way about going to Ireland and not wanting to come home. My husband keeps saying we should sell everything and move there. I'm not too sure about that.

Julia Smith said...

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I hail from Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada, where there is a very large population descended from Irish immigrants. My first two boyfriends came from families of Irish heritage. (actually, my first boyfriend's mother was born in Ireland.)

Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia's next-door neighbor, had a huge pre-famine Irish population, and they did what they knew best - grow potatoes. PEI potatoes are not to be missed.

Here in Halifax, Nova Scotia we have a lively Celtic culture, made up of Irish and Scottish heritage. Most East Coast music is Celtic in nature. Today there is an all-day string of performances by Celtic bands at The Olde Triangle pub, which will have an on-going line-up outside, starting at 7:30 am!

Julia Smith said...

Oh - I forgot to mention the two Irish twigs on my family tree. Roger Casey, who came to Nova Scotia in the early 1600's, and Marguerite Johnson, born in Carlton, Quebec in 1787 and who married into my French Quebecois family. The Irish and the French - Catholics, you know! I'm very glad to have them on my family tree on Saint Patrick's Day.

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

I too, am from Eastern Canada, I was born in Saint John, New Brunswick the 'Dublin of Canada' strong Irish roots there. I was raised in Nova Scotia, fitting as I have both Irish and Scottish blood. St Paddy's Day is a big thing in the Maritime provinces! As Julia said, Halifax has a TON of pubs, and I am sure they will be serving green beer today!

I would love to go to Ireland, on my to-do list to be sure.

One thing I loved about IReland, Murphy's Law:

Nothing is as easy as it looks.
Everything takes longer than you expect.
And if anything can go wrong,
It will, at the worst possible moment.

Ah, the Irish!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Julie, my mil is from Newfoundland and that is where my dh gets his Irish from. Big populations of Irish up there too.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Christie Kelley said...

Drew, thanks for the Murphy's Law reminder. I've been faced with that this month. Nothing but computer problems.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Becke Davis said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Banditas and Bandita Buddies!

"May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night,
and the road downhill all the way to your door."

Christie Kelley said...

And Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, Becke!

Gillian Layne said...

I'm so sad because I can't find The Quiet Man on tv today. They usually show it several times...that's our tradition. I'm going to have to go find it at the rental store.

Great post! I get my Ireland experience (and Scotland, and England) from all the wonderful descriptions in everyone's books.:)

Jane said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I missed out on the parade, but I'll see the highlights on the news and I can always grab a glass of green beer on my way home. Earlier in the week we had corned beef and cabbage for dinner(they were on sale at the market.)

Joan said...

Just in from the pub where the crowd is already getting rowdy!

On our way out, a lad pulled up next to us in a car and...thinking I wasn't wearing green with my jeans and white top....started to say he'd have to pinch me..until he saw the green Mardi Gras beads around my neck!

Dang, should have thrown those off as he wasn't a bad looking fellow

Christie Kelley said...

Gillian, I have to admit, I've never seen The Quiet Man. I'll have to look for it.

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Jane, Happy St. Patrick's Day to you. My corned beef is smelling so good from the crockpot. I can't wait for dinner.

Christie Kelley said...

Joanie, now you know what you must do next year. No green. Go for the pinches from handsome lads :)

Pissenlit said...

Nopers, not in the least bit Irish as far as I know. However, Ireland's on my List-of-Places-to-Visit-One-of-These-Days and today, I did wear green and have been blasting Dropkick Murphys on my mp3 player, if that counts for anything. Heh! If it wasn't the middle of the week, I might've contemplated braving the pub crowds...though I totally draw the line at green beer as there's just something highly unnatural about that. :D

Pat Cochran said...

Happy St. Paddy's Day, Christie!

I'm not Irish, but Honey is so
our children are! (I guess I
could be considered Irish by
marriage! LOL!!) Honey's family
is descended from a Patrick
Cochran who came to the U.S.
during the Potato Famine.

My chief connection to St. Patrick
is that he is my name saint! (The
feminine version, that is!)

Pat Cochran

Janga said...

I'm Irish on my mother's side, many generations back though, and English and German on my father's side. We're having Reubens too--from a local sandwich shop. I always vote in favor of no cooking.

My favorite St. Patrick's Day tradition (which won't be celebrated this year because the hosts have flu) is a party at the home of friends. She's Greek, he's German, and their two young daughters are Chinese. The guests usually include another half dozen nationalities and a goodly number of American mutts like me. We're all Irish on St. Paddy's Day.

Christie Kelley said...

Pissenlit, I'm so with you about the green beer. It's just not right. But the corned beef and potatoes were delicious!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Pat, Happy St. Patrick's Day to you! Like I said in an earlier post, my children with their Italian last name are far more Irish than Italian.

Christie Kelley said...

Janga, I'm totally in favor of the no cooking. Actually the corned beef in the crockpot was so easy it was like not cooking. And I put the boys to work cleaning up so it was an easy meal tonight!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pissenlit said...

Christie, corned beef and potatoes sound fantastic but I haven't the slightest clue how to make corned beef. We're making chow mein for dinner. :D

Christie Kelley said...

Pissenlit, put the corned beef into the crockpot with 1.5 cups of water. Cook it on low for 9 hours. Yummy!

Louisa Cornell said...

Munching my corned beef and potatoes at this very minute. I am half Native American and Half Brit (Dad was 3 quarters Welsh and 1 quarter English.) His family were all Pennsylvania coal miners after they immigrated from Wales (1892)They grew up among the Irish so St. Patrick's Day was always a big holiday in their house. My Mom (Half Cherokee / Half Creek) is fairly certain there had to be and Irishman in there somewhere as her maiden name is Jones. Therefore she cooks a big feast of corned beef and cabbage AND potatoes and soda bread for the day. Wish I lived close enough to stop by for dinner!