Don’t we all want to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? And, don’t we want some of that Irish luck to rub off on us? This time of year, every where we look there are Irish signs of Leprechauns and Shamrocks exclaiming the luck of the Irish. Well, I hate to break it to you (and, just in case you didn’t know), but the phrase “The Luck of the Irish” means bad luck!
Although it’s origin is as an ironic phrase meant to describe inherently bad luck, it has morphed over the years to describe the Irish people’s ability to turn difficult situations around despite bad experiences such as famines, war, and prejudice. Somehow, at least in our American culture, we have turned this phrase upside down and backward and now it means “good luck” – at least in the United States.
Did you know that more than 36 million Americans claim to be of Irish descent? This is a staggering number of descendants, when you realize that the whole Republic of Ireland today has a population of around 4.6 million people! Representing 12% of the United States’ population, there are 8 times more people in the US claiming Irish descent than there are in the whole of Ireland. If you count Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom), the number is still around 6 times more people. And, one more little tidbit – around 2 million of the 4.6 million people in the Republic of Ireland live in Dublin!
How did the US end up with a large Irish population? Well, one of the extremely bad “Luck of the Irish” events was the Great Potato Famine of Ireland from 1845 to 1852. At this period of time in Ireland’s history, the population was around 8 million. During those years, one-third of the Irish population was dependent on the potato as food and a terrible blight infected the potato causing widespread famine and mass starvation. More than a million Irish people died and this famine was the catalyst for the mass immigration of another million Irish people moving to American in order to escape starvation.
Now that I’ve brightened your day with a wee bit of Irish history, here are a couple of Irish phrases about “The Luck of the Irish” to share and I sincerely mean them in the luckiest of ways!
May the luck of the Irish be with you!
and this one…
If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!
and this one…
May the luck of the Irish bring you happiness and prosperity!
P.S. Did I tell you that I’m a quarter Irish? Really. Truly. Not making this up. My maternal great-grandparents we some of the Irish that immigrated, although not during the famine. Really. I promise. And, yes, I like to tell everyone that I’m of Irish descent and proud to be Irish, especially around St. Patrick’s Day!
(other posts about Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day)