What exactly does our Irish heritage encompass? I believe it involves researching, discovering, preserving and interacting with the cultural traditions handed down to us from the generations that have gone before us.
Here in the Irish American Mom Community we love to celebrate Irish and Irish American heritage. But what is it about our heritage that makes us so proud?
Is heritage the memory of our ancestors and the legacy they have gifted us? For some of us it surely is.
Does heritage involve fully understanding cultural traditions and artefacts from the country of our predecessors?
Is the connection between people and their heritage genetically inherited or is it a learned experience built through family legacy and childhood engagement with relatives?
Some people have only recently discovered their Irish roots through DNA testing, and never knew their Irish forebears. Yet many have always felt a deep affinity for the land of Ireland, despite not realizing their genetic connection to this small island on the edge of the Atlantic ocean.
A while back I asked a favor of members of our little Irish community. I sent subscribers an email and posed a complex question in search of insights into the meaning of our Irish heritage. Here's the question I asked:
What's the most important thing to you about your Irish heritage?
A difficult question alright? But my word, did respondents rise to the occasion with eloquent, meaningful answers.
For the past week I have been inundated with responses to my email, and I cannot thank you enough for taking time to carefully consider the significance of our shared heritage. I have read, reread and treasured your responses.
Your answers touched me deeply, and so I thought it would be wonderful to share your beautiful mosaic of Irish thoughts.
Here's how one reader summed it all up ...
"So many things are intertwined ( in my mind at least!) and work all together to make the Irish who they are, no matter where they are. So here's some things that come to mind ( no particular order)
- sense of family
- sense of community--looking out for each other
- standing against injustice--especially injustice towards those who are least able to defend themselves
- abiding love of the land
- love of laughter
- our rebellious streak
- our poets, writers, storytellers, musicians and singers (we certainly have a way with words)
- our hospitality
- our food (taking simple ingredients making delicious meals)"
This is just one example of your many responses. As I read over your stories I started making lists of your adjectives and words. Patterns and repetitions started emerging inspiring the creation of an Irish themed word cloud.
I hope you like this graphic. If you would like to print it, simply click here for the PDF file which you are welcome to save, print and share.
Now, let's take a quick look at your top ten most frequently quoted words and phrases. I've also included some of your touching, poignant and passionate responses.
And so, without further ado, here are some of the most important things about our Irish heritage....
"The most important thing, to me, about my Irish heritage is the people - you might say, the Irish Way (poets and fighters all wrapped up in one)..... The people are always so accepting and accommodating that even when not with blood family it feels so familial."
"The most important things I value about my Irish heritage are the dedication to family and country, the insistence on education for our young and laws to insure care for the young, elderly and infirm. Our moral strength and determination drawn from the Celts."
"Where I come from..the blood and people I am built from and why I am the way I am."
"We are descendants of intelligent, honest, hard working, country building, hospitable, real scholars and saints."
"The origins and history of the Irish - the good and the bad that has made us into a hearty people with passion."
9. Way With Words
"The fabric of my Irish heritage is a tight weave of creativity, wit, blarney and wisdom."
"The best of my Irish legacy is a wonderful facility with words, phrases and prose. I love the lilt that it offers."
"It has always seemed like there is an Irishness inside me, and I want to learn more about how the Irish lived and how they live today, the traditions, the superstitions, the lifestyles. My mother had a fabulous imagination and told us elaborate stories. I’d like to believe we have storytelling in our blood. I’m looking for the nooks and crannies, the little tidbits of daily life that would resonate within the cellular memory of my DNA."
8. Good Food
"It is also very important to me that my two sons are very familiar with Irish food, music and holiday traditions and that they stay connected to all their relatives in Ireland."
"I am most interested in learning more about Irish culture, Irish holiday traditions and "every day " recipes ( not gourmet restaurant ones I can find online 😀)."
"The most important thing about my Irish heritage is that it gives a foundation to me. The history, the beliefs, the faith, its like a building. A building does not stay strong without a good foundation. My Irish heritage is my strong foundation. My children were raised with their Irish heritage. I have seen them grow, I am now seeing their children grow with the same beliefs."
"A sense of belonging to something bigger than myself- a history and heritage rich and spiritual."
"The legends, myths and spiritual legacy of the Celts is intriguing."
6. Irish Language
"I love to listen to the language. Listening to Gaelic helps me feel more connected to Ireland even though I cannot speak or understand the words."
"I am very interested in hearing how Gaelic phrases are pronounced."
5. Love of the Land
"Most important to me is the Ireland of old. History, recipes, poems, true stories about the people and land. We haven't learned or heard most of the true Ireland. A relative of mine said it best: We aren't the land of leprechauns and pots of gold"
"The deep love of the land, our home and family vie with the fire in the heart and writer’s soul - these are the complete package of what we are fiercely and tenderly proud of!"
"My favorite symbol of Ireland is the claddagh, and I wear a claddagh cross to remind me I need to show love, loyalty, and friendship to God and Jesus."
"My Irish heritage pulls at me on a daily basis and is a source of much family pride."
"I love Irish loyalty to family and nation. One of my favorite Irish sayings goes like this ...."A family of Irish birth will argue and fight, but let a shout come from without and see them all unite."
3. Perseverance / Survival
"I have always be amazed at the courage and strength it must have taken to board that ship to escape the very hard times they were facing in Ireland to seek better lives in America."
"When my great grandparents came over on the boat during the potato famine, they had 11 children. They all died on the ship. My great grandfather was just distraught, my great grandmother said to him, "If we are not to have an Irish family, we'll have an American one. I don't know if it helped him then, but they did have 9 more children in the US, one my grandmother."
"How proud I am of how they pursued the American Dream in spite of all the hardships they encountered. From 'No Irish Need Apply" to becoming well respected members of America."
"I love the fact that being Irish means you're a survivor. Our ancestors endured so much, yet still tried to see the silver linings. They played music, told stories and kept those stories alive for generations. They came to America from famine with nothing and accomplished many dreams amidst the racism they experienced, "Irish need not Apply". "
"The most important thing to me about my Irish Heritage? Endurance....and having a successful ending to an Irish family’s extremely difficult and tragic life in the late 1800’s which I wish that my great-great Grandfather and my great-great-great grandmother could see now."
"I've always been struck by the fact that the Irish have been through much adversity throughout the centuries. And yet they're known for their delightful wit, humor & good-natured spirit. That inspires me and I'm proud to have so many ancestors of Irish descent."
"My Dad always had his Rosary in his pocket and a few treasured medals and a tiny statue of (I think) St. Joseph. Dad seemed to perfectly understand that anything that was good came from God. And, "with the help o' God", as he would always say, such and such would happen. Dad's solid Faith has made me clearly define that Faith as just part of being Irish...for which I always felt so proud of, and so special that it was just what I am. From that, my life has blossomed into an embracing of the plan God has for each of us and all those of good will."
"The most important thing to me is remembering that faith and culture are inseparable. The Irish survived and preserved their culture and heritage because of their deep faith in God who saw them through and gave the Irish the gifts that make them who they are."
"There is so much about my Irish heritage that is important to me (music, poetry, culture, the beautiful land), but if I had to choose one thing, it would be the Catholic faith."
"The most important thing to me about my Irish heritage is the parts that have been passed down the generations in my family - family life, music, Irish dancing, warmth, hospitality, cups of tea round the table, humor, slight madness!, religion, spirituality, names, history."
"The most important thing to me about my Irish heritage is feeling closer to my ancestors, understanding how they must have felt on leaving Ireland, on surviving America, on how they dealt with feelings of anger and hatred towards those who contributed to the difficulties they experienced in life..... So singing along to folk songs, voting, speaking up for others, walking in Ireland, wearing an Aran sweater, telling stories from Irish mythology, learning to speak and read (a little) Irish Gaelic, eating colcannon, drinking tea--all these give me a feeling of warmth--like a caress across the years. Like my gr'grandparents and my grandparents, I am proud of being an Irish-American. I am proud of my Irish Heritage. I am especially proud of my grandmothers, gr'grandmothers and gr'gr'grandmothers--who tended to outlive their husbands and struggled as single parents to support their children."
"Most important...love of family, our roots...feeling that dna!!! Love visiting our family still on the farm that our great grandmother left to come to America at age 19."
"My Irish heritage is important to me because it has given definition to my being here. It helps define who I am. I love the traditions of, love of family, loyalty, and humor that comes from my “Irish “ side."
Dedicated to the Memory of our Ancestors
And so with this blog post, I dedicate our Irish American Mom Community to the memory of our ancestors, and to the Irish legacy they bequeathed us.
With your help we can preserve knowledge of their customs and traditions and we can give life to the heritage and culture they passed on to us. We should not and shall not ever forget them.
Many thanks to everyone whose contributions made this blog post possible. If you would like me to add your name under your quotation just send me an email or a comment below.
Or if you would like me to feature your family's immigrant tale or the story of their American evolution, just let me know.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
If you enjoyed this post here are some other stories and tributes you might enjoy.