Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thoughts About Irish Heritage in America ...

Whenever I think of writing a post on Irish ancestry, I hesitate as I am not completely sure if my ancestors who married in Ireland are actually Irish. The problem is that the surname for my ancestor is supposed to be Scottish and not Irish, or so information that I have read on the surname says. (Of course, it is entirely possible that my ancestors were descended from Scots that settled in Ireland.) Of course, when I was little girl, I did not know that I had ancestors that were born in Ireland, and I think that was also true for my family members. It was not until I began researching my family history that I learned I had ancestors born in Ireland.

So, why am I writing this? Well, when I was in elementary school, students were expected to wear green on Saint Patrick's Day. This was, of course, primarily a peer pressure expectation from fellow classmates. I realize that wearing green on Saint Patrick's Day is probably expected almost everywhere in the United States, but there was also another rumor that was told in my elementary school that I am unsure if it has been heard anywhere else in the United States. Supposedly, according to this rumor, on Saint Patrick's Day, one could see leprechauns but only if one was Irish (or, apparently, of Irish ancestry). Silly and unbelievable? Yes, but when one is five, six or seven years old, it can be believable. Or it was when I was that age. Of course, that was the time of my life when I was enthralled by fairy tales. And among those fairy tales were stories of leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, especially with cartoon shows of fairy tales. Undoubtedly, the leprechaun with a pot of gold is a stereotype, albeit one that seems to be friendly. And, one could argue, that the Lucky Charms cereal reinforces that stereotype. If one thinks about cartoon shows and cereal that deal with Irish stories, one could argue that the Irish immigrants who came to the United States did influence our culture, even if that influence is subtle.

1 comment:

Colleen Johnson said...

Jessica - You are not alone. We were told that same story when we were children. I've also passed the story onto my children. My daughter always tries to see a Leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day. It's funny to hear her now tell my 3 year old, Timmy, not to let go if he catches one! :)