Since 1991, presidents of both political parties have designated March as Irish American Heritage Month to recognize the contribution that Irish immigrants and their descendants have played in the formation of our Nation. The heritage month coincides with the Irish national holiday of Saint Patrick’s Day which we recently celebrated.
The achievements are many. Among them are nine signers of the Declaration of Independence, over twenty of Washington’s generals, the first man to hold a commission in the United States Navy, over 190,000 Irish born Americans who fought in the Civil War, pioneering women such as Nellie Bly and Christa McAuliffe, the inventor of the modern submarine and 253 Medal of Honor recipients who list the place of their birth as Ireland.
Having visited the “emerald isle” myself, it has been a blessing to me to have met Irish folk who cherish their beautiful country, keep its languages alive and practice its traditions as they extend their warm and witty hospitality to everyone who visits their shores.
The Irish people for centuries have had a strong Gaelic tradition of passing down blessings, orally, from one generation to another. In a few lines, they extol the beauty of the land itself, invoke the care of the Deity regarding home and hearth, as well as, ask for traveling mercies. Here are a few of my favorites.
“May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you. May the blessings of St. Patrick behold you.”
“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.”
“May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends.”
“Bless you and yours as well as the cottage you live in. May the roof overhead be well thatched and those inside be well matched.”
“May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.”
“May those who love us, love us. And those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, so we know them by their limping.”
“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.”
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
“May you have good food and raiment; a soft pillow for your head. May you be 40 years in Heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.”