On St. Patrick’s Day, as we all get in touch with our inner “Irish,” here are two collections in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives holdings of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections that offer a glimpse into the folklore and traditions of The Emerald Isle in America.
“In the month of March, Irish folklore flourishes,” confirmed Andrew Oberdier in his paper examining its usage in the media, most notably The Boston Globe. For example, as way of enhancing the holiday mood, raising interest in its news stories, or selling advertised products, the Globe‘s content during the 1988 holiday was replete with images of shamrocks, leprechauns, and even the Blarney Stone. Oddly enough, except for one feature article, St. Patrick himself remained largely in the background, confirming that, for many, the day’s religious aspects have taken a back seat to commerce and general revelry.
In 2005, a representative of the Kentucky Folklife Program documented the St. Patrick’s Day parade and associated activities in Louisville, Kentucky. Sarah Milligan identified several parade participants–trade unions, neighborhood associations, musicians, and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians–as sources of information about Irish heritage in the city. Her video record highlights both the parade and a performance of Irish music at the Filson Historical Society. While she found that the “Irish scene” in Louisville is not comparable to that in major centers like New York and Chicago, the roots still run deep and, as we see every March, the green bursts forth anew.