The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) reflects on another St. Patrick's Day without the traditional gathering and celebrations. 

In recognition of St. Patrick's Day and March being Irish American Heritage Month, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) have released a second video celebrating the accomplishments of Irish Americans and the progress they have made from their humble immigrant beginnings.

In conjunction with the video, National Irish American Heritage Month Chair Neil Cosgrove has released the following statement reflecting on what it means to have a second St. Patrick's Day without traditional celebrations.

Cosgrove's statement reads: "With sadness for the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of traditional St. Patrick's Day cancellations.

"When COVID hit, St. Patrick's Day parades were among the first in a long list of public celebrations to be canceled; promises from public officials that 'we will celebrate St. Patrick's Day next year' have now proven overly optimistic.

"Instead of the skirl of the pipes and the noise of the crowds, the streets that host our St. Patrick's Day parades will again be empty this year. It is up to us to decide how we will use that silence.

"The natural reaction may be to use it to mourn. There is undoubtedly a need for that. When we gather for our next St. Patrick's Day parade, there will be many missing faces, more than a few Irish American organizations may be absent from the line of march, some of the places that hosted post-parade gatherings for generations have shuttered; all victims of this disease.

"Once again, we have seen that 'necessity is the mother of invention' and that Irish Americans by inclination are not quitters. If, before the pandemic, someone were to suggest that the 184-year-old Ancient Order of Hibernians, the largest Irish American organization in the United States, would be holding their national convention virtually and their divisions meeting on-line, people would have doubted their sanity.

"While nothing can replace the camaraderie and fraternity of human interaction, new tools has been discovered to connect people of Irish heritage no matter where they may be. That is unquestionably a positive, especially as we see the Irish American diaspora becoming more dispersed across the country.

"Traditionally, silence has been seen as an opportunity for reflection, and we should take this opportunity to reflect on what is the true meaning of St. Patrick's Day and Irish American Heritage Month.

"Are we missing green beer and bagels, plastic derbies, and negative trope-ridden T-Shirts? Or are we missing remembrances of the people who gave us our heritage, telling the old stories with friends and family and that special feeling when you see the look on the face of a toddler seeing their first parade and the passing on of traditions to the next generation?

"When we have our next St. Patrick's Day, let us focus on what we missed and what is truly important, not stilt walkers, unicyclists, and llamas with green bowties.

"The not-so-positive silence has been the deafening silence of many of our educational institutions, the media, and corporate entities who still seem to have not heard the annual call of American Presidents since 1991 to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of Irish Americans with appropriate 'programs and activities.'   The Irish American community should fill that silence by asking, 'Why?'

"It is regrettable that, given that March is both Irish American Heritage Month and Women's History Month, we do not highlight the contributions of so many strong Irish American women who were trailblazers such as Nellie Bly, Mother Jones, Anne Sullivan, Kathleen McNulty Antonelli, and Colonel Eileen Collins.

"The story of the Irish American people is the story of resilience, it is the story of a people that continue to move forward no matter what the obstacle or odds, as highlighted in the Ancient Order of Hibernians second Irish American Heritage Month video.

"There is no doubt that we will 'march again;' it is now time to rededicate ourselves to rebuilding our cultural institutions and coming together to support our brothers and sisters' small businesses.

"St. Patrick's Day and Irish American Heritage Month's true meaning is the story of a people who have been knocked down innumerable times and come back stronger than ever. As we see the hope of an end to this pandemic, it is a call to action for us to write the next chapter in that story."

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