Why Are Irish Americans So Captivated By Ireland?

Many Irish Americans feel a deep, spiritual connection to Ireland, my homeland and the birthplace of our ancestors.  This affinity intrigues me.

What amazes me most is that many American’s ancestors left Ireland because of dire poverty and starvation. Yet despite the difficulties of their lives in Ireland, they brought a great love of their homeland with them to the United States.  I think there are few groups of immigrants so deeply linked to their homeland by nostalgic memories.  This spiritual, mystical connection has been passed down through the generations.

In my twenty something years living in the US, many American friends have recounted fond memories of their Irish grandparents or great-grandparents.  They attribute their great admiration to a warmth, wit, turn-of-phrase, or generally pleasant outlook on life.

In November 2012 I featured a guest post on the topic of Celtic Religion.  It generated some wonderful, thought-provoking comments.  One reader asked:


“What do you think it is that all of us of Irish descent, many of

whom have never been there or are now generations from our

ancestors who left the old country, are so attracted to?”

-Question By Spencer


This question generated some very interesting responses.  So interesting, I thought they deserved a blog post all of their own.  Here are some responses from other readers:


“It not an attraction, it’s an anchor in a spinning universe. And it matters little that some of the ‘stuff’ is twee beyond words (little people). Some of the stuff downright physically painful( Irish dance). Some crazy. But it is mostly genius, loyal and ancient, all with grit and gumption. And part of you.”

- Response By Vince

“After visiting Ireland in 2011, I would have to agree with you on it being an anchor, Vince. It’s an anchor that has a constant pull on me and I really want to return. It also haunts everything I do and enjoy!”

- Response by Chris

“My Grandad- whose Dad was Irish- was my absolute favorite person in the world. Since he passed away, everything Irish has taken his place in my heart as #1. So basically a love of our relatives, of our families, and a desire to know more about who we are and where we come from is what I think attracts us most.”

- Response By Aimee

I believe part of the attraction is an instinctual desire to honor all of God’s creation. After so much time of modern human disrespect and delusions of controlling the Mother Earth and her inhabitants that balance is longed for. We have ventured so far from what feeds us both physically and spiritually.”

- Response By Penny

A big thank you to everyone for their wonderful responses.  A special thank you to Vince for his insightful comment and for coining such a magnificent phrase, when he declared Ireland to be “our anchor in a spinning universe”.

And so today I am asking you to join in this conversation and tell us why Ireland is your “anchor in a spinning universe”. Feel free to add your two cents worth in the comments below.  I’m looking forward to your answers.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)



Irish American Mom

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  1. Colleen says:

    My Mom is from Ireland and she instilled in my brother and me a strong love for the country she emigrated from – the music, dancing, etc. Her entire family stayed behind in Ireland so we visited most summers throughout our youth and that really strengthened the connection and allowed us to create great memories there. It’s hard to explain but I feel “at home” whenever I go back – even now as an adult!

    • Colleen – I hope I can keep the connection to Ireland as strong for my kids, as your mom did for you. My kids are already looking forward to their next trip. So happy to hear you feel “at home” in Ireland.
      Best wishes,

  2. Hi Mairead, I had a long post ready to go but changed my mind as you know how i think. Ireland lies as a kitchen chair in your mother’s house. The door is always open though we sons and daughters have traveled the four corners of the world. Occasionally, we send a letter, and hopefully set a time for a visit.

    • Brian – I love the image of Ireland as the kitchen chair in your mother’s house. The door is truly always open, and every son and daughter of Ireland is always welcome, no matter how far back their ancestry may go.
      All the best,

  3. Mariana says:

    I live in Argentina, a country where most people descend from Spanish and Italian inmigrants. When I found out I had Irish ancestor, I felt special and became interested in everything Irish. And that made my love for the country grow. I hope to able to visit Ireland some time.

    And I don’t know if you are aware, but there is this thing called The Gathering during this year, where people with Irish ancestors is invited to go to Ireland: http://www.thegatheringireland.com/

    • Mariana – When I was home in Ireland a few years ago I watched a documentary about the Irish diaspora in Argentine. I had not realized until then there are so many people of Irish descent in your country. I was amazed to learn that Argentina’s Irish community is the fifth largest worldwide. I hope someday you get to see Ireland.
      I hope to visit Ireland this summer during The Gathering. I hope many people of Irish descent will take the opportunity to see my homeland. Thanks so much for stopping by and for adding to the discussion.
      Best wishes,

  4. KTG says:

    My grandma’s parents moved here from Ireland.She is the reason I have a fondness for the country.i remember Irish blessings on the walls of her home.she loved limericks,shamrocks and also had a green thumb . I remember her teaching me how to pull weeds.
    I named my daughter Maeve because my gram loved Maeve Binchy books. I often wonder if Irish people would find this strange!

    • I don’t think anyone in Ireland would think it strange to name your daughter Maeve because your granny loved Maeve Binchy books. I think it is a lovely reason to choose a name you feel connected to, and that has special meaning for you.
      Many Irish people love to garden, and pulling weeds is a well-honed skill in Ireland. They grow extra fast with all that Irish rain. I can just see your granny teaching you the details of how to pull them up, root and all.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for your lovely comment.
      Best wishes,

  5. STEVEN HASH says:

    i was raised in SOUTHERN INDIANA , USA.

    • Dear Steven – Isn’t it amazing how your ancestral heritage is drawing you to the British Isles, and especially Ireland and Scotland? I hope someday you get to visit these countries, and discover for yourself the beauty of the scenery and the warm welcome of the people. I live in Kentucky, not far from you in Indiana. I really like it here, but no matter how long I spend here, Ireland will always be my spiritual home. I wonder if my children will feel the same connection.
      Best wishes and thanks for stopping by.

  6. Vince says:

    There was a thing in the telly a few years ago where they did up a 1840′s C of I derelict . Since they are all the same design it’s hard to know if that one is the one, but it certainly looks like it from it’s site.

    • Vince – That picture is of the Old Church of Ireland in Dunlewey, near the Poison Glen in Donegal. My husband took that shot the last time he was home. It probably looks very like the old ruin that was done up for the TV program you mentioned. My husband has a dream. If we were a little wealthier (actually a lot wealthier), he would love to renovate an old castle or “Big House” in Ireland. I think this one will have to stay on his wish list, unless we win the lotto.
      All the best,

  7. Erika Cooper says:

    I become a lover of Ireland in a interesting way. I watched PS I love you with Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler( of course fell in love with him lol) I was at a point in my life were I wasn’t feeling great about my marriage and life and my older daughter had moved out. I started watching this movie over and over and yet it is a sad movie and Gerard not really being Irish gave me some sense of I liked the way they viewed life then when the scenery came on I was taken away by it. So I started wanting to know everything about Ireland history places religion legends all I could learn. I was 38 at the time. I turned 39 and felt what have I done for me. I was a mom at 20 and a daughter and a wife 3 times. I felt 40 coming and at 39 I decided to do something crazy I got my first tattoo of a Celtic shamrock and it says love, hope and faith. You have to understand im not full Irish I think I have ancestry to there but still doing research and I was raised Jewish in religion all my life so a tattoo was taboo my jewish mother got over it lol. So I got the tat and I love it it has meaning to me. I still felt I needed something more so in 2010 I got my passport for the first time and I booked a flight to Dublin I went by myself out of the country for the first time ever and stayed for 5 days. I saw the cliffs and I walked through little towns saw museums enjoyed the temple bar my fav place to drink and I just fell in love with Ireland and found myself because of it. I have such a draw to it I got another tat on my back of the claddah ring. (I swear I’m not going to cover myself) I came home and felt like I left part of myself there. So in 2011 I went back and took my husband so he could share in my love of Ireland he enjoyed it but didn’t grasp it like I did and he has more Irish in him. Ireland now calls to me so I do alot that is Irish and traditional my mom has enjoyed the things I’ve taught her and showed her and my girls love now that I’m cooking some Irish dishes. I got the call to go to Ireland again and I went sept 2012 I took my 21 year old daughter we had the best time and she understood my love of it too. Its amazing to me how I didn’t grow up with anything Irish nor did I ever hear about Ireland and now it’s part of me were I feel it call to me theres lots of other reasons it calls but all I know is it is part of me and I hope to do it again this year. Just wanted to share my story.

    • Erika – Thank you so much for sharing your story and your love for Ireland. I always enjoy hearing stories where people feel right at home in Ireland, and experience an amazing spiritual connection with my homeland. I hope you get the chance to visit Ireland many, many more times, and enjoy it more and more each time. Best wishes,

  8. Shawn Marie Durkan says:

    I grew up sitting down to tea with my grandmother who came from Ireland. I loved listening to her stories of the Old Country. I longed to go to Ireland and never thought I could. My grandmother passed away in 2000 at the age of 99. It was then that I vowed I would visit her country and in 2005, at the age of 30, I finally made my first visit to Ireland by myself. I cried when I arrived at the airport. I felt like I was “coming home”. I’ve been to Ireland several times since then and have taken my kids. I am currently in the process of getting Irish citizenship and want to move there. Everyone thinks I am crazy, but I feel like I have been separated from my true land and can’t wait to go back. Is it really crazy that I want to move there, when everyone else wants to move here?

    • Shawn – It sounds like your grandmother left an indelible mark on your memory, perhaps even the Irish part of your subconscious. I think that may be why you feel like your are “coming home” every time you visit Ireland. I too long for my trips home to Ireland. There I seem to recharge my batteries. I understand how you might want to move to Ireland. The Irish way of living and our outlook on life is different to that of Americans. I think you grow to appreciate it more once you have been there and experienced it. For me the big issue with moving back to Ireland is an economic one. We have to make a living, and right now we can best do that here in America. I pray you get to live in Ireland someday – here’s hoping all your dreams come true.
      All the best,

  9. I completely relate to Ireland being an anchor. I couldn’t even tell you which generation of my ancestors came from Ireland to the States, but I know that something about the mystical isle I have yet to visit draws me like a magnet. I just read your post on your Americanization process, and learned that I have some of the same instincts that your Irish upbringing has afforded you. I always decline the first offer of drink upon making a call, and sorely regret it when another is never given; and I almost exclusively drink black tea with milk (though I substitute honey for sugar, like any good Californian would). There is something in the blood of an Irish descendant that can never be squashed: a fighter’s heart; a giving spirit; a love of green hills and blue sea; and knowing that laughter and a good meal can cure nearly anything. Plus, I think we all know deep down that Ireland would be ready to welcome any of us home, should we choose to go. I certainly hope that I get the chance to live in Ireland and raise a family there. I have long said that it would take a really great man with an even greater name to make me give up my own, as it is the anchor of “home” I hold on to tightest.

  10. I read your blog with great interest I find it so intriguing that so many of our people left this beautiful land and never did get the chance to return even just to see it for a last time. I am a photographer and am at present having some of my work displayed in a new building beside the new Titanic Exhibition Center it’s called the Dock a meeting place for many those who wish to learn more of Ireland the titanic etc and those who wish to chat have a coffee and maybe ask for prayer for some problems or ailments. This will be my first exhibition. I am also hoping to sell my work to those who have roots here in Ireland and have never been but would like something of our country and its myths and magic in their home. I wonder do you know of a way of advertising in your country not so much big commercial but just letting people know, even if I can research some information or help with tourism I will be more than happy. I hope you don’t mind me making contact but being from Ireland it’s what we do we make friends we help people we welcome new friends to our land. My Facebook page is beverley davidson Stitt if you would like yo see my pictures as I say my photography is under construction. I would be interested in your critic of them.
    I hope you enjoy our lovely land and friendly people. Beverley

    • Dear Beverly – Thank you so much for stopping by my site and for introducing us to your wonderful work. I look forward to seeing your photos when your website is completed. I did a quick search on google and found some of your photos. Your landscape shots are amazing.
      Wishing you every success with your exhibition and work.
      Best wishes,

  11. STEVEN HASH says:

    IT’S HOME !

  12. Hi Mairead
    Thank you for your lovely comments I really do appreciate them. I am very much enjoying reading your blog and your recipe section. This week my exhibition of my pictures will finally be a reality and by the weekend I should have my website up and running. I am glad you enjoyed looking at my work, I have liked you on facebook so I will enjoy getting your latest writings.
    best wishes

  13. Camille says:

    Good Afternoon –
    I recently (as in just about 2 weeks ago) spent 10 days in Ireland with 40 other folks from my church back here in the states – Houston, Texas. I have always wanted to visit Ireland as my grandparents were from Ireland. I took my daughter along for the trip. I fell in love with Ireland and didn’t want to leave – I am planning another trip – the visit so changed me that I think about Ireland everyday. The warmth of heart and home is in everyone you meet there. There are no strangers in Ireland – everyone is a friend! I always had Irish music, foods, and books around me, and now they have an even deeper meaning.

    • Camille – It is so nice to hear you had a wonderful time in Ireland, and that you personally experienced the warm welcome of Ireland. I hope you make it back again, someday very soon.
      All the best,

  14. I noticed you had visited Ireland recently. Did you enjoy your trip, were did you visit.
    Were was your special place. I hope you had fun and will come back one day. Strangely how you talk about Ireland I feel about France tho I have no connections there other than my own trips but I fully understand your passion.
    Wishing you well

    • Camille says:

      Beverly – As mentioned my grandparents were from Ireland. My father was also very passionate about Ireland, but sadly never got to visit before he passed away unexpectedly some years ago. That passion he held as well as my grandmother lives within me. I visited several places – Galway, Connemara, Killarney, Kilkenny, Glendalough, and Dublin. My very special place that had such a pull on me was Killarney. I absolutely loved it there. We stayed there 3 days and 3 days in Galway and those two places I will definitely visit again. The countryside with its lush fields of green, the sheep and cattle peacefully grazing and the lovely stone fences and homes are simply charming…..many of the homes I saw were exactly how my grandmother described them. Next time I visit Ireland I plan on staying at least 15 days, perhaps a month if I can save enough money to do that….

      Thanks for your reply and blessings to you!

      • Camille – I’m sorry to hear your father never got to visit Ireland before he passed, but by sharing his passion for Ireland with you, his love of his ancestral home lives on. Thank you so much for sharing your Irish vacation experiences with us here on this website. It is truly an honor to hear first hand of these deep seated feelings of connection which you, and many other visitors to Ireland experience.
        Best wishes, and thanks for stopping by.

        • Camille says:

          Thank you so much Mairead! That means a lot – I have been visiting your site and will continue to visit….I feel a little connection and able to hold on a bit to the spirit that is Ireland. I felt overwhelmed at times at the different places we visited, especially the HIll of Tara and Hill of Slane, along with Glendalough and Killarney. The Cliffs of Moher were exceptionally beautiful o the day we visited – apparently it had not rained in sometime and did not rain the entire time we were there – beautiful weather the entire time and I felt even more blessed. I am planning my next trip for possibly the summer of 2015. My daughter graduates 2014 and will start college and all those expenses, but 2015 will see things calm down a bit and I will be back in Ireland!

          Regards –

          • Camille – I’m so glad you found my site. As you wait for your next trip to Ireland, I hope my ramblings can remind you of your ancestral home.
            Take care,

  15. me says:

    I am from N.ireland lived there most of my life now living in london, it does amuse me why so many people have such strong feelings towards ireland. I can relate with the countryside being one of them and the beauty of the windswept shores but not the constant rain. Your blog does remind me of the simpler things, such as the smell of a peat fire in a pub on a winters day ,drying out after more rain, the laughter of my friends and that sarcastic humour. Perhaps a nice american woman could persuade me to return :-) . I know I am already tainted with my love-hate relationship of the place something which is always there but cant be explained.

    • I’m so glad my ramblings brought back some happy memories of your earlier years in Northern Ireland. I fully understand what you call your love-hate relationship with Ireland. It’s hard to explain the tug it sometimes has on our heartstrings, but our rational minds bring us back to reality when we remember the incessant rain. It’s then we ask ourselves why we feel so nostalgic about the place. Thanks so much for checking out my blog.
      Best wishes,

  16. Ruaidhrí says:

    dia duit Máiréad. I happened to come across your blog by accident. I was watching a clip of all the Irish returning home from all corners of the globe. It tugged on the heart-strings. It was so sad watching mums and dads crying and embracing their sons and daughters. I have traveled out of this country many a time. Like you said, Ireland has an innate ability to drag you home. You just miss it terribly when you are away from it. I don’t think I could even try to explain, it just does that to you. You as an Irish lady knows what I mean.

    Not because we are Irish but I firmly believe we are a fantastic bunch of people. Warm, Kind, funny, charitable, the list off attributes goes on. I hope the US has been good to you.

    As you know when you come HOME, there will always be a bed to sleep in and a stew in the pot!

    Sonas agus sláinte.


    • Thanks so much, Ruaidhrí. I’m happy to say I’ll be spending Christmas in Ireland this year, my first time in over twenty years. My kids are very excited about their first Irish Christmas. Ireland will always draw on my heart strings, and I’m glad to say she has pulled me home this year.
      Nollag shona duit,

  17. AK says:

    Hi, I came across your blog whilst researching Irish identity for my Sociology exam. I am a proud Irish woman and have the pleasure of living in the countryside in rural Ireland. It just warms my heart to read all your lovely message about Ireland. My grandparents would tell us stories of old Ireland and I feel blessed that I can share these tales with my own children. God bless Eire, Slainte….

    • Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog. I love rambling about my memories of Ireland. So glad you were blessed to hear stories of Ireland from days gone by. I too believe it is important to share these tales with our little ones.
      Best wishes for 2014,

  18. Tom says:

    This is an intriguing topic for me. I grew up in Michigan. My father’s grandfather emigrated to America from Carrick-on-Suir in 1887, but there wasn’t too terribly much nostalgia for Ireland in my home. But I had it for some reason. So much so I went to Dublin for grad school and lived in a bedsit in Clontarf for two years. Great times! But I came to appreciate that today’s Irish are contemporary Europeans who often are quite different than the projections of nostalgic American-Irish would make them out to be. I have some Greek friends who say the same difference exists between Greek-Americans and contemporary European Greeks. (I’m sure our Irish American Mom could speak eloquently to this point). I recently read Jay Dolan’s excellent book “The Irish Americans”, and recognized more of my own family’s story in this. Still, both of my own children have Irish names, and I cook Irish food on all the holidays, so go figure. (I came to this blog for the recipes!)
    Best wishes,

    • Tom – I agree with you. Today’s Irish are contemporary Europeans, and I often wonder if I miss an Ireland that doesn’t exist. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Dublin and that you still feel a connection to the land of your ancestors.
      Best wishes,

  19. Jason Kirsch says:

    Well, it’s difficult to say that the Irish Americans are so spiritually connected to Ireland.
    First of all, isn’t it rare nowadays to find someone who is of 100% Irish descent? I do have lots of friends who are part Irish but they are also part Swedish, part Scottish, part French and so on.
    If they all feel such a connection to the lands from where their ancestors came then they must be loving the entire world.

  20. Angela says:

    Yes… It is nature that keeps us tethered to what most matters. Family, love of nature, good stories, laughter, jokes, fresh air, and the determination to not let outside forces wear you down. It is in the blood, at least that is what I believe. Thousand of years are imprinted into our DNA, our cells. When we reach the end of life we will joke. ” I think I am dying and won’t make out alive. “

  21. Lisa says:

    I was just having this conversation with a friend this morning and we both remarked on how it seems to be so prevalent among those of us with shared Irish ancestry. I Googled it… and found your wonderful Blog! I love it when things like that happen.

    My mother’s family came from Ireland in the mid 1800′s.
    I have always wanted to visit. There is always an undercurrent in my day to day. My heart pines for a homeland I never knew and soil I never dug my toes into, but one day I will see it in person and on that day, my heart will finally understand why it yearned and ached all this time. When I talk to other individuals with Irish ancestry, they get what I mean. I say that to someone without Irish roots they look at me like I’m insane. I agree completely, there is something deeply encoded in the genetic material that calls and resonates and guides us. As a little girl, I used to tell my mom, “Someday, I’ll get to Ireland, take off my shoes and spin and dance and sing and laugh and cry, all at the same time.” I’m 43 now and I still feel that way.

    • Lisa – I so hope you make it to Ireland someday. It’s lovely to hear from readers who feel such a strong yearning for the land of our ancestors. Ever since I moved to America over 20 years ago, I have grown keenly aware of how Irish Americans feel such a deep connection with Ireland. I agree wholeheartedly that Americans with different cultural heritages don’t seem to feel the same link to the lands of their ancestral origins. I have no idea why this is, but I truly believe it is a significant phenomenon.
      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and checking out my recipes and ramblings.
      Best wishes,

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