Home Away From Home
Dances, dinners, communion breakfasts, memorial masses, picnics, excursions, field days, trips to Ireland, protest marches, installations of officers, and monthly meetings filled a busy year-round social calendar for Irish immigrants. All of the gatherings provided opportunities to meet old friends and to make new ones, especially for young Irish men and women adjusting to life in a city like New York. It was hard to feel homesick when surrounded by so many others from the same part of Ireland who were pursuing similar American dreams. County activities were often a lifeline for older immigrants, as well as a chance to hear the latest news from home first-hand.
The waltzes and Stacks o’ Barley at an Irish county society dance led to many a wedding, more often than not followed by a christening. In childhoods that happily revolved around events with county connections, the next generation came of age instilled with a special pride in Irish origins as well as powerful bonds with their parents and older relatives. For a generation without grandparents in America, socializing in these ways was vital to the transmission of key folk memories and traditions. It significantly deepened the meaning behind the answer, “My mother and father are Irish.”