Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Are you wearing your green? Many of us here at Hammock are. While we may not all have Irish ancestors in our family tree, we love any excuse to get together with friends and family and indulge in good food, drink and stories—which is exactly how many of us like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Though we tend to associate the day with green beer, pub crawls and corned beef and cabbage rather than the 5th-century Christian missionary for whom it is named, the holiday has a long and rich tradition in America.
The world’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place on March 17, 1762, in New York City, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the English military. And parades like it continue to this day in every part of the country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 36.5 million U.S. residents claim Irish ancestry. Irish also happens to be the nation’s second most frequently reported ancestry (only German ranks higher). That got us wondering about our collective Irish heritage at Hammock. How many of us have Irish roots? And, for those of us who do, how has our ancestry influenced us? Here’s what we uncovered:
Hammock’s Irish Roots
Patrick Burns boasts lots o’ Irish in his blood. His grandmother hailed from County Clare, an area near Ireland’s western coast, and came to America in the early 1900s. Growing up in Massachusetts—where a quarter of the population is Irish—Patrick remembers his dad playing radio broadcasts of Irish folk music every Saturday. “It was in our house all day long,” Patrick says. “I still know the words to a lot of the songs.” Every March 17, the Burns family “religiously” attended the Mount Holyoke parade, the country’s second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Last year, Patrick shared that tradition with his son, Sean, and his daughter, Heather, for the first time. The kids loved the Mummers—banjo players in colorful feathered costumes—as well as the lively celebration that followed at the Sons of Erin, an Irish club. “My daughter did her version of an Irish jig with the band—and she even made money!” Patrick says. This St. Patrick’s Day, the Burns family will keep their celebration low-key, feasting on corned beef and cabbage and listening to the same Irish music Patrick grew up on. Oh, and afterward, Patrick just might make a mean Black and Tan (a special blend of pale ale and dark beer).
Megan Morris has a healthy dose of Irish from both of her parents (her maternal grandfather’s family came to America during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s). Megan says she gets her “penchant for a good drink from my mom’s side and my stubbornness from my dad’s side.” Growing up in Chicago, she spent her St. Patrick’s holidays eating corned beef and cabbage at her dad’s deli and going downtown to see the Chicago River dyed green (a tradition city workers happened upon in 1962 while using dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges). Nowadays, you’ll find her “crammed in some crowded bar with a bunch of friends” on March 17, or celebrating at home with her husband, Ian (also of Irish decent), and a few Guinnesses.
Ben Stewart suspects he might have a wee bit of Irish blood, since his family came to America from Scotland, but he admits, “I definitely don’t have the luck of it.” He does “like to celebrate on St. Patty’s Day like I’m Irish by throwing back some green beer with friends.”
Bill Hudgins has heard rumors of Irish lineage in his family—and he wouldn’t be surprised. “Surely my love of telling stories and attaching them to everyday events must come from there,” he says. “I find redheads particularly attractive, but that could also be some Scots’ heritage or even Danish.” Whatever his bloodline, he likes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day like the Irish, imbibing pints of Old Bushmill’s and Guiness.
Summer Huggins has Irish roots on her dad’s side of the family tree—and she has the red hair, freckles and fair skin to prove it. “I don’t think I got the stubborn Irish streak,” she says, “but my husband might argue with me there!”
As for me, my last name, McMackin, is a dead giveaway to my Irish ancestry. My dad’s side of the family was Scots-Irish and migrated to America from Northern Ireland in the late 1700s. I’ve been told that “Mac” means “son of” in the Celtic language, so my name literally means “son of, son of, kin.” Unfortunately, that’s all I know about my ancestry, though I suspect I have my Irish kin to thank for my sentimentality (I can cry at the drop of a hat) and my tenacity (I’d rather cry than give up at anything).