There was an air of excitement in the classroom. Tomorrow was the annual parade down “Can Do” Street. It wasn’t just any parade; it was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade!
Yundi raised his hand and asked Miss Pat why “Can Do” Street had an annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Miss Pat replied, “To celebrate Irish heritage.” Yundi thought for a moment and answered, “Why do we celebrate Irish heritage? Who are the Irish and where do they come from? Are there any Irish in our town?”
“That’s a lot of questions,” said Miss Pat. “Let’s look at the history of the Irish in America for those answers.”
Miss Pat began, “We honor Irish heritage and its rich culture and traditions because so many of our forefathers immigrated from Ireland, a small country in Europe, to the US from early colonial days. They came like most immigrants, for the promise of a better life.
Irish Americans, especially those who arrived in the U.S. in the 1840s, had to overcome much suffering. The Great Potato Famine of 1845-49 claimed the lives of 1 million Irish back in Ireland. To escape starvation, over 500,000 came to America. Most of the Irish who settled in the U.S., during this period, arrived with little education and few material possessions. As a result, they encountered poverty and discrimination. Most were Catholics and also suffered because of longstanding prejudices against their religion.
Irish Americans fought in the Civil War, and all the other major wars ever since. They played a large role in the growth of this nation over the years, in the building trades, law enforcement, politics, and education.
There are 34.5 million Americans who list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German. (US Census 2013)
Cities all over the U.S. celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a parade and other festivities. The most famous of these annual festival traditions includes the Boston parade, with its first parade in 1737; the New York City parade, which began in 1762; and the Savannah, Georgia, parade which started in 1812.”
Miss Pat paused to let everything she said sink in. Then she asked, “Does anyone want to add anything?” All at once, Orrie, Bobby, Annie, Kathy, and Arthur J raised their hands. Miss Pat called on Orrie, who said, “My grandma and grandpa came to “Can Do” Street, from Ireland, when they were just married.” Kathy jumped in, saying,”My grandma knows how to step dance, which is a special kind of Irish dancing that she did as a child, in Ireland.” Then it was Bobby’s turn, “I’m learning to play the bagpipe; someday I will play it in the parade.” Arthur J shared, “I have a good voice, so I am learning to sing the Irish songs my grandparents love so much.” Annie, who had been waiting patiently burst out with, “My grandma makes the best Irish Soda bread, and I ‘m going to eat lots of it after the parade!” Everyone giggled at Annie’s comment!