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.
Eulogy For An Irish American Mother
Between The Jigs And The Reels
- The Wailing Banshee in Irish Mythology
- Celtic Cross Giveaway for Saint Patrick's Day
- Leprechaun Pop-up Card Craft With Template
- What is a Celtic Druid?
- Plush Felt Shamrock Stitching Craft With Free Template
- Toilet Tissue Roll Paper Leprechaun Craft
- Beef and Ale Stew
- Smooth Satisfying Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur
- Irish Calendar Giveaway 2023
- How To Make Delicious Festive Shortbread Star Cookies
- Irish Countryside Simple Celtic Knot Necklace Giveaway
- Christmas Gift Giving With An Irish Flair
This post is beautiful- I really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and thoughts about the importance of our Irish heritage.
Irish American Mom
Hi Sheila - Thanks so much for stopping by to check out all the reasons why our Irish American community treasure their Irish heritage.
All the best,
Thank you Mairéad for this opportunity to say why I love my Irish Heritage. It is because of how I grew up.
Why I Love Ireland
This is an excellent question and it is something that must be ingrained in the child, by the parents. I was born in California, but my mother always said, “You are Irish, be very proud of your Irish roots.” My dad, on the other hand, was the quiet one, but he just said, about himself, “I am Irish.” Hearing this, it was like a second nature to me. When I was in the University, I wanted to quit after my third year, and my mother said, with her Irish strong-will, “The Irish are not quitters. No one in your family ever quit, don’t be a quitter, you ARE IRISH.”
When I was in the Catholic elementary school, Sacred Heart, in Oakland, California, we got a Catholic paper to read every month, and it had an article on Northern Ireland. My father always said, “Derry” as he was from that area. In the Catholic paper, it used the word, “Londonderry” and as a child, one always wants to show your parent that he, or she is wrong. I told my dad, “Dad, you always say “Derry”, but you are wrong as the newspaper says “Londonderry.” My dad was very calm, and he gave me my first history lesson on Ireland. I was hoping, the next day, the nun would say something about the article, and I was ready to tell her she was wrong, even if I had to stay after school. She did not bring up the article again, and thank God, I did not have to stay after school. The important point was I was ready to stay after school for Ireland.
Being Irish, and PROUD, is something that comes from the parents. Later, I had a girlfriend, when I was an adult, from Limerick, and she told me, “You are Irish American”, you are not Irish. That is the only thing I disagreed with her on. Irishness comes from the heart and soul. It is an undying love for Mother Ireland, that only can be instilled by proud Irish parents. I have been to 18 of the 32 counties and my brother had more opportunity to be in Ireland, and he went to about 28 counties. We both loved it. I went back twice. So, to answer the question about why I love Ireland, it was instilled in my heart and soul, by wonderful, proud, Irish parents.
My dad came here just before the Great Depression. He told me about seeing signs that said, “No Irish Need Apply.” My dad tried to work and went to different places. There was no work. I was very young when he told me about the sign, and I said, “Why didn’t you apply for the job anyway?” My dad said, “Because I am IRISH”, with all the tenacity in his voice. I did not fully understand until I was older, the significance of his statement, but it just was ingrained, through the years, of being proud to be Irish, or “Irish American” to appease my former girlfriend from Limerick. God Bless the Irish, and we have so many reasons to love Ireland. It is ingrained in many of us……
Irish American Mom
Hi Ray - I really enjoyed reading your response and learning about your deep pride in your Irish heritage. You highlight Irish pride, tenacity and love of education so beautifully. I do not agree with your former girlfriend about not calling yourself Irish. I believe that those of us who were born in Ireland should accept the great honor it is that others show pride in their Irish heritage by recognizing themselves as Irish. I am always blown away by how many Irish Americans are keenly interested in their cultural heritage and many know more about Irish history than those born in Ireland. Many thanks for stopping by and adding to our discussion of our Irishness.
Le gach des-ghuí,
(With every good wish)
God Bless you Mairéad and thank you so much for your wonderful comments. I wish you and your wonderful family the very best in life.
One more comment Mairéad; thank you so much for your wonderful web-sight and allowing us to express what we all FEEL ABOUT BEING IRISH. It means the world to us....
Irish American Mom
Ray - Thanks so much for your kind words. It's wonderful to connect with so many Irish Americans who feel such a deep connection to Ireland.
All the best,
Irish American Mom
Thanks a million Ray. All the best to you and yours also.
I sure enjoyed reading what others so eloquently wrote! I’m so blessed to be part of this wonderful community of “Irish” ! Blessings, Mary
Irish American Mom
Hi Mary - And I'm so happy you decided to join our little 'Irish' community. I too feel blessed to be part of this group whose members hold Ireland and all things Irish dear to their hearts.
All the best,
Mairéad, love the word cloud you made out of the various responses you got to your question. What a great idea!
Irish American Mom
Hi Cheryl - I had fun putting that word cloud together. It is amazing how everyone's words helped create this little piece of word art. The words used most frequently are the ones with the largest font sizes. Thanks as always for stopping by.
Mairead, this presentation is simply amazing! I have read and re-read trying to capture everything you intended to communicate by your arrangement and inclusion of others' thoughts as well as your own...this is just wonderful. I can't help but be reminded of the monks' usage of letters of ascending size as they carefully scripted their writings, as I study your map and its framing of the words used by those who responded to you...seems as if the sizings and locations were presenting thoughts as well as emphasis. Simply super! Excellent!
I love that that you have also "connected" us a a true little Irish community! How fun that is! And everything that was said, I think we all can relate to and really feel it is a part of us all...the 10 category names seemed all so right on, to emphasize.
Just a few examples of phrases/thoughts that stood out to me (and, please know I thought all the thoughts were so fun to read and think about!) were..."fire in the heart...fiercely and tenderly proud of"..."a claddagh cross to remind me I need to show love, loyalty, and friedship to God and Jesus"...
"A family of Irish birth will argue and fight, but let a shout come from without and see them all unite."
..."a feeling of warmth -like a caress across the years."..."love of laughter"..."our poets, writers, storytellers, musicians, and singers (we certainly have a way with words}"..."survival"..."very interested in hearing how Gaelic phrases are pronounced."
Particular thoughts that were expressed at different times that were particularly interesting to me were..."Listening to Gaelic helps me feel more connected to Ireland even thought I cannot speak or understand the words."..."...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."..."I'm looking for the nooks and crannies, the little tidbits of daily life that would resonate within the cellular memory of my DNA."..."A sense of belonging to something bigger than myself-a history and heritage rich and spiritual."..."feeling that DNA"..."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."
I so believe we have, actually and physically, inside us connections to those who have gone before us and who by blood and culture have made us, by the Grace of God, what we ARE!
Which brings the final thoughts that I loved most of all..."The Irish survived and preserved their culture and heritage because of their Faith in God Who saw them through and gave the Irish the gifts that make them who they are."..."if I had to choose one thing, it would be the Catholic Faith."
So, in addition to the popular images of leprechauns and pots of gold, which, of course, are such a part of Irish culture (and, I believe, based in true stories of people and events that actually happened!), this beautiful "mosaic of Irish thoughts" is a spectacular portrait of the people that St. Patrick loves so well that it is said that by the time of his death, he considered himself to truly be an "Irishman."
Thank you so very much, Mairead, and as always God bless you for what you have done for us, your "Irish American Mom Community!" It is such a blessing that you have dedicated "us" to the "memory of our ancestors, and to the Irish legacy they have bequeathed us." I believe we all would say that we share your hope, and want to help in the preservation of the "knowledge of their customs and traditions" and the hope that we can also help give "life to the heritage and culture they passed on to us."
"We should not and shall not ever forget them." Amen! Please God, bless this wonderful effort!
Irish American Mom
Hi Irishnannie - I loved putting this piece together. Everyone's responses were overwhelming and a treasure to read. I have been given inspiration for future writing from all the wonderful people who read this blog.
Thanks for all your lovely contributions.
All the best,
Thank you so much for being there for all of us. I am in America and I have a longing to connect with my irish roots. I know there are people who think that's a little crazy but I believe its in our DNA truly. someday I hope to go to Valentia Island where my family is from. We are survivors who fight for the underdog and what is right and just. Our sense of humor that gets us through all ills. Loyalty and friendship. I miss my tribe! lol
Irish American Mom
Hi Linda - I do think there is something in our DNA that draws us to Ireland, our homeland. I hope you make it to see Valentia Island someday. It's a magnificent place. The scenery is sublime. I like how you sum up the Irish - "We are survivors who fight for the underdog and what is right and just. Our sense of humor that gets us through all ills. Loyalty and friendship." Beautifully said.
All the best,