Guest Column: March is Irish Heritage Month

JC Sullivan
Participants in a past St. Patrick's Day Parade

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day in March makes it a natural time to celebrate the Irish in America.

In 1991, Congress designated March as Irish-American Heritage Month and each year the president of the United States issues a proclamation commemorating the occasion. Originally a religious holiday to honor St. Patrick who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century, it has evolved into a celebration of all things Irish.

Boston and New York City both claim the world's first St. Patrick's Day parade, while Philadelphia and Savannah claim to be the second oldest. In New York City, the first St. Patrick's Day parade was held on March 17, 1762, featuring Irish soldiers who served in the British military protecting the Colonies during the French and Indian Wars.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman, of Scottish descent, attended the New York St. Patrick's Day parade and gave a speech to attendees. This was a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and prejudice to find acceptance in the United States. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Irish-American Catholic President and in 1961, he was in New York to review the St.Patrick's Day parade.

According to the 2019 U.S. census, 30.4 million Americans claimed to be Irish. While there are many Irish-American clubs and AOH halls throughout the United States, Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have several local clubs and organizations: the West Side Irish-American Club (www.wsia-c!ub.org). the East" Side Irish-American Club (www.eastsideirish.org), and the Akron Hibernian Hall (www.aohakron.com). All have fun events, including Lenten fish fries, scheduled throughout through the month and beyond.

Two of the largest National Irish organizations in America are the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and the Ladies AOH (LAOH). Both are active throughout the nation in various charitable activities promoting the Roman Catholic faith and Irish heritage in America. Their oath calls upon us lito foster the ideals and perpetuate the history and traditions of the Irish people."

In recent years the AOH and LAOH have been successful in having greeting card companies stop printing cards that are derogatory to the Irish. For several years, we have been campaigning to have WalMart, Amazon, and other retailers stop selling apparel and products that promote negative stereotypes of the Irish.

For additional information on or to get involved with the AOH or LAOH, visit their websites: https:!/aoh.com/ or https:ljladiesaoh.com/.

In Ohio, Cleveland has had the largest March 17th parade. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Cleveland's parade was canceled in 2020 and again this year. Other Ohio cities that traditionally celebrate with parades are Akron, Youngstown, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

However, as wonderful as it is, we all know that being Irish-American is so much more than parading on St. Patrick's Day. Celebrating our heritage during the month of March is a way to celebrate who we are and where we have come from. May you be blessed with opportunities to observe, honor and celebrate.

Sullivan writes from Northfield Village, Ohio. He is a past AOH National Board Press Officer.