Embracing Irish Heritage Month

by Christine Nappi, Staff Writer

The month of March is a time of year to wear green, eat corned beef, dance along to Irish music and commemorate the origins of Irish traditions. Irish Heritage Month gives students an opportunity to connect with and celebrate the culture Manhattan College prides itself on.

There will be various events throughout the month for students to partake in. The Multicultural Center is hosting an Irish soda bread baking contest March 11, and the Gaelic Society will host Irish Night on March 14, where students can celebrate Irish culture. In addition, members of the college will be marching in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 16. Students of all ethnicities are welcome to attend the events and celebrate Manhattan’s Irish heritage and origins.

“It’s a good chance to appreciate where a lot of us come from and even if we don’t come from there, to appreciate a different culture and then celebrate,” Gaelic Society President Tara O’Shea said. “Across every single culture, one thing that we all share is celebration so why not all celebrate together.”

The Gaelic Society has been arranging and coordinating plans for Irish Night as well as the parade, and encourage students to participate in the celebrations. The Gaelic Society is an organization that allows students to bond over their irish descent and embrace aspects of the irish culture year-round, even though their main events occur during Irish Heritage month. O’Shea describes their goal this time of year is to educate students and give them an opportunity to celebrate Irish culture.

Irish Night is held annually by the Gaelic Society and is one of their main events. The festivities will take place in Smith Auditorium at 5 p.m. At the event, the culture is celebrated through Irish food, dance, and live music. In addition, guest speaker Frank Brady from the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers will be there.

“If you go to the event Thursday, you’ll see some Irish dancers, you’ll hear some Irish music which will be fun. It’s what we do on Saint Patrick’s day, just celebrating the culture,” assistant dean of the O’Malley School of Business and accounting professor Aileen Farrelly said. Farrelly is a member of the Irish community that takes pride in her heritage, and she also has a TCRG certification to teach Irish Step Dance.

Following Irish Night is the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade. MC will be marching in the parade and represented by the Gaelic Society, the Alumni Society and the Pipes and Drums Band. Students are welcome to march as well, and can attend a breakfast before hand at The Club Quarters Hotel.

“We definitely want the students to come out for Saint Patrick’s Day, it’s definitely an awesome time,” Gaelic Society Co-Vice President Dan Sammon said. “It’s a really cool experience to look back on Fifth Ave and to see the line of people and the flags, the atmosphere is amazing.”

Sammon and O’Shea encourage students to join the parade for the chance to have an enjoyable time and meet alumni of the community. O’Shea states that student participation is usually sparse due to the parade being during spring break, yet this year it is at the beginning of break which gives students an opportunity to come. Manhattan encourages student participation in the parade in hopes of winning back the title of “Best College Marching Unit.”

“it’s an indescribable experience, especially if you’re not from New York and you’re not used to the whole parade idea,” O’Shea said. “Going to it is one experience, but being a part of it and being in it is totally different, it’s so much more exciting.”

At Manhattan, students are surrounded by Irish culture year round. As Sammon describes, the Kelly Green color of the school is known for the Kelly Clan of Ireland. In addition, he also notes of the influence of the Irish Christian Brothers Teaching Order in Ireland and the model it sets for education.

“Ireland is the isle of saints and scholars,” Sammon said. “We got a lot of people that fit into that mold of creative thinking.”

On top of the history the Irish Heritage brings, Farrelly describes that students are surrounded by the culture in the local area. She notes that An Beal Bocht Cafe plays Irish traditional music every sunday.

“Our students are always kind of around it no matter what they are, they’re always around it,” Farrelly said. “That’s why it’s here and that’s why we celebrate it so much.”

Farrelly began Irish Step Dancing when she was four years old, and continued to dance when she attended Manhattan College in 1991. Currently, she runs the Lowry-Farrelly School of Irish Dance in Yonkers. Her students have performed at Manhattan basketball games in the past, but she would love to see an Irish Dance team on campus. Aside from dance, she notes that a Gaelic football or Hurling team could get students more involved in the Irish tradition.

Farrelly said that she continued to embrace Irish traditions through step dance, because of the family history she has in Ireland. She finds it important to continue Irish traditions for the sacrifices Irish people made when they came to America. When they emigrated, she claims it was important for them to continue with their traditions and culture.

“For me it was very important to keep the tradition alive and to make sure students and families were having fun,” Farrelly said. “Just keeping it alive, and I think Manhattan does a good job of doing that”

Irish Heritage Month gives students the opportunity to remember the culture and honor the contributions brought here by the Irish community.

“It’s a chance to look into an ethnic group that’s had a lot to do with the development of the country,” Sammon said. “It’s a cool chance to take a look that the culture and where people are coming from.”