By Sabrina Garone
Last weekend, we broke out our best green attire in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the one day a year when everyone is a little Irish. The holiday is something I look forward to each year, and Saturday’s celebration did not disappoint.
Here in the United States, the holiday is much more than a celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. It’s a celebration of Irish-American culture. The Irish have had a long history in this country, and I have been told that something like 38 million people identifies as Irish-American.
While I am partially Irish (one-quarter to be exact), I have never felt too connected with my Irish heritage other than around St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps being half Italian is to blame, as those traditions reign in my household. But I think it’s also because I don’t know much about my Irish ancestors, and our family history has been difficult to trace back.
For this reason, I have long been looking for an excuse to dive into some Irish history. So I decided to create a segment for The Pulse, our campus TV news show, on St. Patrick’s Day and Irish tradition in Fairfield to satisfy my curiosities.
While creating the video package, I had the opportunity to speak with some experts here at Sacred Heart and within the Fairfield area about St. Patrick and the many contributions the Irish have made to American society.
The most surprising thing I learned? St. Patrick was not even Irish. He was born in Britain during the early medieval period and was captured by Irish pirates as a young boy. In Ireland, he was a slave for six years until he finally made his escape.
Upon returning to Britain, St. Patrick began studying Christianity. He would eventually feel a calling to return to Ireland and preach the gospel there.
“Going back and missioning the very people who made him a slave gave to the Irish people a sense of a worthy hero and leader,” said Dr. Roney, a professor and historian of Modern Europe here at Sacred Heart.
“St. Patrick makes sure that there are no more snakes in Ireland. He brought Christianity to Ireland which would be their salvation.”
It was not until Irish immigrants began coming to the United States that St. Patrick was recognized with some kind of celebration. St. Patrick became important in giving Irish immigrants a sense of identity and a way to connect themselves with their native country.
A sense of Irish identity is still as important to Irish-Americans today. In Fairfield, traditional food, music, and dance are alive and thriving through the Gaelic American Club.
Last week, I stopped by the club’s cultural night to collect some more footage for my assignment. Watching people young and old taking part in traditions that have been around for generations was truly heartwarming. These traditions were so important to them and were able to bring a whole community together.
Faith, family, and friends; this to me is what Irish tradition is all about, and what makes St. Patrick’s Day worthy of massive celebration. After learning the true meaning behind St. Patrick’s Day, I love this holiday even more and promise to embrace my Irish roots all year long.