March 17 is the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. Americans especially honor him with parades, Irish food, and green beer. We eat corned beef and cabbage so on that day I guess we are all Irish. The Shamrock is considered a sacred plant that symbolizes spring and is an Irish symbol. It is a visual guide to the Trinity which St. Patrick used in his sermons as held the plant in his hands.
Thousands of Irish immigrated to our shores because of the terrible potato famine that started in 1845 in Ireland. Many of the Irish resorted to eating seaweed and died of starvation or disease before thousands immigrated here with no money. When they came to America, they were discriminated against. They arrived in New York only to live in slums and work at very low paying jobs. Many Americans thought they bought disease and were a drain on welfare budgets. There were signs at factory doors, “Irish Need Not Apply” so the jobs the Irish were able to get were the dirty and dangerous ones.
After migrating here, it was the Irish that built the tunnels for the subway systems of New York. They also built the bridges that connected the five Burroughs of the city. Many of them died trying to achieve these great accomplishments. Others became policemen and worked hard for the community they served.
The historical novel, The Adventures of Francie Fitzgerald by Victoria Kamar Olivett is an example of an Irish immigrant family in Newark, New Jersey in the 1880’s They are proud of their Irish heritage, their music, their food and their family traditions. Attending a Fourth of July picnic at St. James Church, they see the Irish cross with a Celtic ring inside it blending the old and the new beliefs of their homeland. Francie’s father is Patrick who’s birthday is, of course, on March 17. While at the picnic, the parishioners play Irish songs with the bagpipe and dance their traditional dances.
When Francie’s brother Austin and his friends are attacked by a rabid dog and are leaving with Francie for a trip to Paris and Dr. Louis Pasteur and his life saving serum, their father sends along an Irish Farewell. “My children may the road rise to meet you. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rain fall soft upon your shoulders and until we meet again, may God keep you in the palm of his hand.”
The Fitzgerald’s are a loving family who take care of one another. Their Irish heritage and their religious beliefs get them through the the most difficult situations. The novel shows great love, faith, and perseverance.