Written by Mona Connolly Casper
Do you tell stories of when your parents or grandparents were little and back in the old country? Do you know how your family came to this country and why? Do you listen to WROL on Saturdays and teach the kids and grandkids to waltz? As an Irish American, knowing your Irish heritage is important and so is keeping some cultural traditions alive!
Our house had a revolving door
I listened to their stories of struggle, sacrifice, and ragging good times! These stories that were passed down to us were going to live on far after they did! So many of these stories are the basis for many of our family’s traditions and relationships. Growing up, our house had a revolving door for anyone from Ireland that was related on any side of the family and interested in staying with us. Each summer, there was always a group of young people from Ireland that needed host families and we took several at our house. I know many people that had a grandmother or great-grandmother who worked downtown cleaning offices long after the kids were asleep for the night or how someone lived with a family growing up because they had lost their parents. Such dedication and loyalty need to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Some of the best memories from growing up begin with my Irish heritage. My grandmother, Annie Connolly never one to be shy, was Irish Step dancing well into her 90s. My uncle Eamon and his friends sang with the Irish Volunteers and every Southie Day they performed a concert that was not to be missed. The Saint Patrick’s Day Breakfast was at our family’s restaurant, the Seapoint for years and never a Saturday of cleaning the house went by without hearing some Noel Henry or Paddy Riley on the radio. I can still time polishing the silver in my head, two slow songs each for the pot and sugar dish, and one fast one for the cutlery.
“All of her great parts woven together”
All of these memories make up the intricate fabric that is my life today. I made a comparison at my mother’s funeral of how she was like a piece of Irish Lace. “All of her great parts are woven together to make a beautiful pattern.” My mother made sure that the pattern included tradition and family. My friends growing up would say, “you have so many cousins.” I would laugh and tell them, “you are right!” My parents insisted we knew them all – it was important to them. Most of my women cousins were named Mary; it was usually accompanied by their father’s first name – Mary Pat, Mary Mike, and Mary Mac.
Teaching my sons
Today I try to teach my sons, Thomas and Macdara the importance of embracing their culture and all the traditions that come along with it. A few years ago we were lucky enough to take a family trip to Ireland. Our boys got to see the home where their great-grandfather danced a jig when he learned he was going to America. They saw the little two-room thatched cottage their great-grandmother shared with her seven brothers and sisters. They saw the Island where my grandparents had to wait for low tide to get home and into the mainland. They repeat these stories now as if they lived them; it makes me smile every time.
There is no reason we can’t celebrate our Irish culture all year long and not just on March 17th. We can all do our part to help pass on the traditions, stories, and rich heritage of our Irish culture.
So I challenge you to take an Irish Step Dancing class, listen to the Bailey Ceili on the Irish Hit parade, make some Irish Bread from scratch, take a class at the Irish Cultural Center and even join the South Boston Irish American Society just to keep our heritage alive. More importantly, our children deserve to know the details that have been woven together to make their own Irish lace pattern.
If you know that your family is from Ireland but you are removed from the old country by generations, I encourage you to learn more about where your people are from! Do some research. Visit Ancestry.com. Share what you learn with the rest of your relatives and pass it on!
If you would like to join the South Boston Irish American Society, just fill out the card below and mail it back with $20!
Mona is a proud, born and raised resident of South Boston, married to Tommy Casper mother of two sons, Thomas and Macdara. You can usually find Mona managing her family-owned local establishment, The Seapoint, or hanging with her lifelong friends and family.