|Week 3: St. Patrick’s Day in Irish America
SLIDE: FIRST ST. PATRICK’S DAY CELEBRATIONS IN America
Irish settlers to American colonies, many indentured servants, brought Irish tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s feast day to America. St. Patrick’s Day celebrated throughout US. Legal holiday in 2 places: Suffolk County, MA (along with Evacuation Day) & Savannah, GA. Celebration of Irish-American & American culture. What are celebrations/themes? How “Irish” are they? NOT PATTY’S DAY
Best clip from Muppets Show: Making fun of Americanized Irish stuff:
SLIDE: WHAT DO WE CELEBRATE ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY?
Feast of St. Patrick (385-461), patron saint of Ireland: cultural & religious celebration; March 17 traditional death date. Patrick: nobleman born in Scotland (real name Maewyn Succat), kidnapped by Irish pirates at 16, taken to Ireland as slave to herd sheep. Patrick born into religious family, but atheist early in life. Rediscovered faith while in Ireland. during captivity, learned rituals & customs of druids, who he eventually converted. After 17 years, St. Patrick escaped, but returned to Ireland as missionary.
SLIDE: AMERICANIZATION OF ST. PATRICK’S DAY
In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day celebrated quietly for years: Catholic feast day. Now, national holiday with schools and government buildings closed. Sort of like Fourth of July, where people spend time with family, attend a special Catholic mass, drink, eat and go to a parade. Day “more raucously & widely” celebrated outside of Ireland. All people with Irish heritage “long for home." Parades more common now, but more European.
Let’s talk about history of some St. Patrick’s Day traditions in US:
SLIDE: Celebrations/Parades: originated in colonies. World’s 1st recorded St Patrick’s Day celebration: Spanish St. Augustine, Florida, in 1600; 1601, 1st parade, organized by Irish vicar Ricardo Artur (Richard Arthur). 1st St. Pat’s observance in British colonies: dinner & worship service, organized by Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1737 (Prot org, but open to Catholics). Purpose: honor homeland & help immigrants. NY’s first St. Pat’s observance in 1762; 1st parade in NYC by Irish soldiers in British Army in 1766; Philly’s Friendly Sons of St. Patrick held 1st celebration in 1771. Washington encouraged members to join patriot cause. Washington also known to give his Irish soldiers the day off so could join celebrations. During war, Washington allowed troops in Morristown, NJ in 1780, holiday on 17 March “as an act of solidarity with Irish in fight for independence.” March 17, 1776: British forces evacuated Boston after 8-year British occupation. For victory, Washington presented with first medal ever awarded by the Continental Congress—Known as Evacuation Day—became imp for 19th c Irish. Savannah hosted celebrations since 1824.
By mid-19th c, parades common in most cities where Irish settled. Purpose? Celebration of Irish-American identity; historian Tim Meagher: “The parades are a statement of showing our colors, showing our numbers, showing that we are powerful and important.” It was a way honor heritage while embracing new homeland. Often came with parades, food, beer. “Pub culture was never about getting drunk. It was about socializing, usually around music or storytelling.”
SLIDE: Green Dye
During Potato Famine of 1840s, mass starvation forced many Irish to flee homeland to US & elsewhere. Historian Christine Kinealy, founding director of Ireland's Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut: “People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people's mouths being green as they died.” “Before I came to America, I'd never seen a green bagel,” she says. “For Irish-Americans, they think of dyeing food green, they think everything is happy. But really, in terms of the famine, this is very sad imagery.” Other association: Ireland, known as Emerald Isle because of strikingly verdant countryside. 19th c, Irish nationalists & republicans adopted the color to distinguish themselves from the reds and blues that were then associated with England, Scotland and Wales. Definitely no green beer in Ireland. Americans drink about 600,000 pints of Guinness. On St. Patrick's Day, about 3 million pints of Guinness are downed.
Play Wearing of the Green (1798), by Dion Boucicault (Irish singer) [Wolfe Tone version]
SLIDE: Shamrocks & LEPRECHAUNS
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity. "There's no evidence St. Patrick ever did that." Still, traditions as early as 17th century incorporated the plant, said Mike Cronin, author of Wearing the Green: A History of St. Patrick's Day. People wore shamrocks on their coats and closed the day by "drowning the shamrock" — placing it in a glass of whiskey before drinking, Cronin said.
Today's leprechauns, usually rosy-cheeked, boozy little men in green attire, come from Irish folklore. Have become part of pop culture, particularly for kids. Big in Ireland now too.
[play clip from Darby O’Gill & the Little People?] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X86llfo2Aoo
Corned Beef & Cabbage: How many had it last weekend? Most definitely not Irish. Cows were symbol of wealth & sacred animal in Ireland, kept more for milk than meat (only consumed once animal's milking days over). Pork way more common: Irish eat Bacon & Cabbage. Irish “corned beef” came into existence after British conquest to satisfy beef-loving English. “Ironically, the ones producing the corned beef, the Irish people, could not afford beef or corned beef for themselves.” Became more common in US, when poverty-striken Irish immigrants picked up taste of cheap meat from their Jewish neighbors in urban melting pot of NYC. Cabbage: spring vegetable & cheap. Becoming more common now in Ireland for tourists.
St. Patrick’s Day in America: process of acculturation
Despite difficulties of life as immigrant, sought to acculturate to American life & adopt customs. Most public expression of Irish identity was annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Day became an opportunity to express both Irish & American identity & pride & served to unite Irish community under one national & religious banner, especially in face of hostility. Helped change idea of what being an “American” meant.
SLIDE: DAY WE CELEBRATE
Still, some of traditions of St. Patrick’s Day part of hostility against the Irish. Result of waves of emigration was great deal of fear, resentment & oppression of Irish in both US & England. US shared British stereotypes of Irish: believed Irish lazy, drunkards, disloyal. Notice how Irish depicted as apelike creatures, hell bent on destruction & attacking respectable citizens & police. Irish-Americans worked on changing this image over the course of the late 19th- 20th century.
SLIDE: Urban America & Impact on Irish-American Identity
Irish-American vaudeville performers. Took Irish traditions and culture and placed them squarely in Americans urban environment. H&H St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Hat My Dear Old Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day “The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day,” composed by Jean Schwartz, sung by Billy Murray
SLIDE: IMPORTANCE OF SENTIMENTAL Irishness & Irish-American identity
Idea of emigration as involuntary exile b/c of British control over Ireland. Longing memory of a loved lost Ireland lasted up through today. Nostalgia became moneymaker in early-mid 20th c.
High Kings: Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n72cGoamJi8
Irish Rovers, Shores of Amerikay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdcBpKuc_eE
SLIDE: IRISH: LOMASNEY & FITZGERALD
St. Pats Day also became public platform for Irish politicians. Irish-Catholic resistance against English domination had instructed them in mass politics. Irish voters became bulwark of Democratic Party. Strong in number, literate, & English-speaking, soon gained control of powerful city machines. As Irish Americans like New York’s “Honest John” Kelly themselves became bosses, white-collar jobs in government service opened up to Irish. Became building inspectors, aldermen, firemen, & policemen, driving “Paddy wagons” that carted fathers to jail. By 1900s, Irish prominent in police, schools, unions, politics, Church; often 1st “Americans” immigrants encountered; often served as middlemen.
Ron Kavana, Muldoon, the Solid Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIT7ic2-hiI
SLIDE: Irish-AMERICAN NATIONALISM
Another part of continued connections with Ireland (main factor contributed to creating clear “sense of group unity” in Irish-American community) came with hatred felt towards “British oppression and resistance.” Memory of Irish past couched in terms of vengeance against Britain; gradual shift toward nationalist attitude came by 1870s-1880s. Commemorative speeches on Saint Patrick's Day invoked nationalist themes such as “British hatred” & “heroic struggle” absorbed “elements of American patriotism & full-fledged nationalism.” Also contributed to view of Irish as “un-American” up to World War I.
Black & Tans (Paddy Reilly version)
Clancys & Tommy Makem: Boys from the County Cork/Let Erin Remember
Clancys & Tommy Makem: Johnson’s Motor Car (1:40)
SLIDE: Irish-AMERICAN DUAL IDENTITY ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY
Irish worked hard to change perception, claiming could be both Irish AND American. See this across country, but good example in Boston: Evacuation Day celebrated as public holiday for Suffolk County; coincided with St. Patrick’s Day—thus giving Irish perfect opportunity to emphasize joint Irish & American loyalties. In 1901, city held parade on 125th anniversary of Evacuation Day: AOH & other Irish societies featured prominently, highlighting day’s “double aspect” & inheritance of American & Irish revolutionary traditions.1 Mayor Patrick Collins declared city holiday for municipal workers & schoolchildren—measure many Progressive reformers protested. Although civic event officially separate from Irish celebration, cultural elements gradually found way into civic parade.
MODERN ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish NATIONALISM
In mid-late 20th century, St. Patrick’s Day became an opportunity to reconnect with Irish roots, particularly during Troubles of 1970s. “England Get out of Ireland” sole political banner allowed (even today, post Good Friday Agreement) in NYC parade.
Wolfe Tones: Celtic Symphony (Up the Rah) video [totally cheesy]
Wolfe Tones: Men Behind the Wire (with lyrics)
Wolfe Tones: Go on Home British Soldiers (lyrics)
Makem & Clancy: Four Green Fields
Liam Clancy: Patriot Game https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQBW6UQa8Fc&list=RDRQBW6UQa8Fc
Phil Spector: Town I Loved So Well
ST. PATRICK’S DAY: POLITICS
Irish-Americans also continue to politicize St. Patrick’s Day with political issues that don’t just affect Ireland, but also US.