The history of the Irish in New York is astounding.
It’s not the big celebration on Paddy’s Day or the fuss and the party that make us all proud to be Irish but the day-to-day occurrences that remind us how lucky we are to come from a small country with a big personality.
1. Reading Seamus Heaney’s poetry on a subway poster
You’re in a rush, sick to death of the snow and just wanting to get through the journey home and relax. You happen to glance up from your book as you struggle to keep your balance in a packed car, still avoiding eye contact with everybody around you. Just in front of you, plastered on the car wall, is a poem from Seamus Heaney. As you read the words, you forget the hustle and bustle around you, almost forget to look for your stop, as you think of the ways in which our countryman’s way with words has spread all over the world.
2. Hearing Irish artists on the radio
Not surprisingly, Hozier’s a big deal this side of the Atlantic, too. Not only are we lucky enough to have a traditional music and dance culture that is encouraged and supported in Ireland and abroad, we have made major contributions to the international music scene.
3. Hearing stories from people who’ve visited Ireland
You may have heard about the beautiful countryside a thousand times over but nobody would be saying it if it wasn’t true. Hearing these stories reminds us of the moments we may have forgotten: a big bowl of soup and brown bread in a pub snug on a rainy day, the sun shining on the Liffey as you walk up the quays with a ‘99, sandy sandwiches on a beach packed on a sunny Sunday afternoon or a hike through the hills on a gusty day.
4. Using Irish on the subway
It makes us stand out, it lets people know that you are part of a different culture and it’s also something you have in common with all other nationalities that flock to the city. There’s nothing better than being able to use your own secret language to discuss other people on the train. Even if you just have a cúpla focal, being able to throw out an amadán (fool) at the person who rudely barged into you, or a náireach (embarrassing) at the person wearing the exact same dress, makes all the difference.
5. Being asked your opinion on Joyce, Beckett, and Friel
As with Heaney, it makes you wonder how our small country managed to produce such talent. Students of English literature all over the world study the works of Irish authors and playwrights who’ve made an incredible contribution to the English language. Being asked your expert opinion may seem a little daunting, especially when you may not have read anything at all, but you're guaranteed to be greeted with enthusiasm if you can help others understand the mind of the Irish.
6. A fine Irish bar
Although we may attempt to distance ourselves from the drunken stereotype, if there is one thing we’re good at, it’s a good pub. Whether you’re a pioneer who goes for the social occasion or a drinker who goes to sample every drink on offer, a cozy atmosphere and a place to debate all of the world’s problems can always be guaranteed.
7. Seeing the empire state lit in green
New York City alone may have a population almost doubling our whole country’s but they still find us important enough to light up one of the city’s most iconic buildings in green in our honor. Seeing the green glow on the skyline from your Brooklyn apartment is guaranteed to set your heart alight with pride.
8. Accepting the gay community into our celebrations
This May will mark a very important moment in Irish history. As the country votes on the topic of same-sex marriage, it is telling that it is also the first year that the NYC and Boston parades will allow LGBT groups to take part in festivities. The inclusion of these groups is a step in the direction of equality and inclusion, on a day when we all deserve the right to celebrate Ireland.
9. Seeing people learn traditional instruments/Irish dancing
Many people underestimate how fortunate the Irish are in their ability to maintain their traditional culture while still playing an important role internationally. Many countries suffer from a loss of their cultural heritage as time passes on, especially as the culture of wealthier countries begins to hold dominance over their own. The Irish, on the other hand, are still going strong with dancers and musicians spread to the four corners of the globe.
10. People attempting to copy your accent
As Julie Hecht says in her book Do the Windows Open? “Sometimes everything the Irish said sounded like a poem.” Yes, this may be cringe-inducing from time to time but isn’t it best to take it as a compliment? Nobody would be attempting to copy the Irish brogue if they didn’t like it so much, so instead of turning up your nose at any feeble attempts, teach them a few words that will make sure their Irish lingo is finely tuned.
So tell us! When do you feel #proudtobeIrish – is it something about Irish culture? Irish history? Ireland today? Is there someone in your family or community who makes you especially proud? We can’t wait to hear your stories.