Celebrating Irish American Heritage Month
Irish-American Heritage Month is celebrated by proclamation of the President and Congress in the United States to honor the achievements and contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants living in the United States. It was first celebrated in 1991. The heritage month is in March to coincide with Saint Patrick's Day, the Irish national holiday on March 17. Heritage Months are usually proclaimed by nations to celebrate centuries of contributions by a group to a country.
Saint Patrick's Day is a Roman Catholic religious holiday that honors the saint, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the early fifth century. It has developed in the United States as a celebration of all things Irish. With large ethnic Irish populations, Boston and New York City both claim the world's first Saint Patrick's Day parade, while Philadelphia claims to be the second oldest behind New York City. In New York City, it occurred on March 17, 1762, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the British military protecting the Colonies during the French and Indian War. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman, of Scottish descent, attended the New York Saint Patrick's Day parade and gave a speech to attendees. This was a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and prejudice to find acceptance in the United States. In 1960 John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Irish American Catholic President; in 1961 he was in New York to review the Saint Patrick's Day Parade.
In tribute to all Irish Americans, the US Congress, by Public Law 101-418, designated March 1991 as "Irish-American Heritage Month" Congress again proclaimed March as Irish-American Heritage Month for 1995 and 1996.
Within the authority of the Executive Branch, the President of the United States has also issued a proclamation each year since 1991.
Each year in March, the Irish Taoiseach visits the United States for Saint Patrick's Day. A Shamrock Ceremony takes place in the morning at the White House where a crystal bowl containing shamrock, a traditional symbol of Ireland, is presented to the President in the Oval Office. This is followed by a Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by the House Speaker in the U.S. Capitol or the Rayburn House Office Building. The luncheon is attended by the President, Vice President, the Taoiseach, the Speaker, and other officials. In the evening, a Saint Patrick's Day Reception takes place at the White House.