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Irish American

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The Fighting Irish: From Beginning to End-Fighting for Fun, Life, With a Big Heart
Tanya Drummond
Maryville University

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to provide information relating to Irish immigrants and Irish-American culture. Religious beliefs remain of importance to many Irish families, as well as traditional celebrations including St. Patrick’s Day. Linking alcohol and celebrations, Irish people are high risk for alcoholism. Furthermore, studies show that heart disease is the number one cause of death within this group of people, causing further alarm of the rampant use of alcohol. Healthcare providers have a duty to prevent further destruction of this jovial society by intervening when welcomed by family and those afflicted by alcohol.

The Fighting Irish: From Beginning to End-Fighting for Fun, Life, With a Big Heart
Today’s Irish population may not be quite as rowdy as once depicted. However, if provoked in the slightest, most likely the person doing the aggravating will soon find out why Irishmen have rightfully earned the nickname, “The Fighting Irish”. As an Irish descendant with the surname, McCollum, I can honestly attest to this part of the Irish temperament. Furthermore, Irishmen do not exclude their own family from violence either. A holiday with my family wouldn’t be normal without a few fist fights as the celebrations continue into the evening hours. When the fights are over, ill feelings released, and more Guinness is flowing we become a loving bunch again.
A true Irishmen is found in the country of Ireland, but countless Irish immigrants descended upon America as early as the 1600s. With these strange newcomers came different dialect, customs, foods, and a deep devotion to Catholicism. Not until the mid-1800s did the Irish begin to invade America due to the potato blight in their native country. Irish people left their homeland in droves due to lack of food and inability to make a living during that time. Thousands descended upon America seeking refuge, fortune, and opportunity; little did they know what poor reception awaited them in this new land, which held countless dreams for so many people (Dezell, 2000, p. 18). Unfortunately, Americans disliked the Irish due to their poor dress, different ways of life, and religious beliefs. Hatred towards the Irish forced the new comers to live in small shanties with extended families because they were again unable to make a living. Business owners discriminated against Irishmen seeking employment with signs reading, “No Irish Need Apply”, further cementing the believed low-class citizens’ status in America (Jessie, 2013).
Catholicism roots are deeply entrenched within the Irish culture. A sincere Irish-Catholic displays devotion for the Catholic teachings, faithfully attends mass on either Saturday evening or Sunday morning, without a doubt goes to confession at least once per week, and participates in all Church related activities. As the Irish population migrated towards St. Louis in the 1800s, Catholic Churches were being established specifically for this new breed of people and their way of worship. The first Catholic Church in St. Louis built specifically for the Irish community was St. Patrick’s Parish at 6th Street and Biddle (Archdiocese Of St Louis, The Archives, 2013). Although St. Patrick’s is no longer standing, the parish marked a new beginning for many Irishmen and their families within the St. Louis community. Catholic churches continue to dominate the majority of places of worship within the St. Louis region, perhaps due to the influx of Irishmen during this time, and the continuance of tradition from the original settlers’ offspring.
Irish culture is overwhelmingly tradition based. Many celebrations have been in practice for thousands of years and continue today. For instance, St. Patrick’s Day has become a celebration that most Americans commemorate; even school aged children wear green clothing to show their spirit in regards to this joyous event. On this day, March 17, legitimate Irishmen gather in celebration of St. Patrick’s passing, the Patron Saint of Ireland. Occurring during lent, St. Patrick’s Day festivities typically begin with Catholic worship service in the morning, meat restrictions are lifted for this date allowing Irish bacon and cabbage to be consumed without atonement, and plenty of drinks for all. Continuing the tradition, St. Louis pubs across downtown serve corned beef and cabbage, drinks, and offer anyone who is Irish, or wanting to be for a day, a good time and a taste of the Irish culture.
Irish societies value God and family above all. Large family gatherings are the norm for any occasion, and the women take care of all cooking, cleaning, and preparation for the big day’s events. Many foods consumed can be traced back for numerous generations, various having medicinal properties along with nourishment. For example, “eat nettle soup three times in May, and for a year keep rheumatics away” (Haggerty, 2013). While Irish people currently adhere to traditional medical advice, once upon a time the wives made most decisions regarding health and used many herbal remedies to cure the families’ ailments (Wooten, 2013).
Food plays an essential role within the Irish culture. Celebrations are often times crowded with foods high in fat, rich with carbohydrates, only to be washed down with whiskey or dry stout. With more individuals in the work force, wide spread fast food eateries, and easy to prepare meals at home, foods that are more traditional have become a distant memory (Curtin, 2013). Foods still consumed by the Irish community include Irish stew, a meal containing lamb, potatoes, and parsley, Irish soda bread, and potatoes, of course (Mac Donnchadha, 2013). Because Irish are a fun loving group of individuals and enjoy spending time in local pubs, excessive drinking is a major health concern within this culture. Drinking, coupled with disregard for healthy food choices encourage heart disease. Unfortunately, heart disease is the number one cause of death linked with Irish ethnicity (Curtin, 2013). Studies in regards to long-term consumption of alcohol produce heart disease such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy, stroke, as well as premature death by cardiac arrest (AHA, Alcohol and Heart Disease, 2013). Innumerable tools are at hand for the healthcare providers to utilize in teaching this jovial community how to drink in moderation and consume better foods for a longer, healthier, future. Regular checkups with a persons’ physician need scheduled in order to obtain routine lab work, as heart disease is one of the main issues at hand. Furthermore, education and risk factors associated with heavy drinking need addressed. The physician provides the basis of healthcare to those seeking relief, and further extends a hand to various medical providers. Beneficial participants in regards to alcoholism or binge drinking should include members of family, mental health specialists, physicians, and nurses trained in chemical dependency. As with any dilemma in life, a person must first recognize a problem exists in order to rectify the situation. Acceptance being the key stone in regards to recovery of any issue is often hard for some to admit, however, if family members approach the topic of drinking with compassion the better chance of receptiveness from the individual. Important in regaining one’s full pleasure of life without the use of alcohol, supportive family members need to be incorporated into caring for the individual affected with alcoholism. Non-supportive members may continue to drink while the person is in the beginning stages of recovery, and unwantedly return the newly sober spirit back to an unhealthy place in life. Mental health personnel are a must in promoting health in the life of an alcoholic, as people tend to drink excessively for numerous reasons, and need help in sorting out why the need for self-medication. Although many individuals will admit to drinking because that is just what the family does, most likely there is a deeper conflict lurking below the surface. Mental health providers specializing in substance abuse can help the addicted client by offering individual counseling sessions and hammering out the causes of the behaviors, in turn proposing coping skills to change the actions to positive from negative. Alcoholics may also need inpatient care, dependent upon how severe the disease has progressed. Detox centers are available to monitor those suffering from the sudden halt of drinking. Abrupt surrendering of alcohol can be hazardous to one’s health, just as continuing to drink. Patients undergoing detox can suffer alcohol withdrawal seizures, treatment of the seizures require immediate attention. Seizures can be relieved and lessened with administration of benzodiazepines and antiepileptic drugs. If the patient will remain sober, seizures will cease to exist and the affected individual will no longer need the use of antiepileptic medications (Hillbom M, 2013). After discharge from an inpatient facility, the real work begins for the newly sober individual. Programs designed to ensure sober living include AA meetings, Al-Anon support groups, and numerous local support groups are available within most communities. Imperative to success in any program, finding others to relate to can often times be the difference between returning to an old habit, and continuing to lead a healthy life.
Because drinking is encouraged in any Irish celebration, someone in the family needs to be cognizant of how often those loved ones are actually drinking. Moderate consumption of alcohol is in no means a disgraceful event; however, if Uncle Mick seems to be drinking daily for no reason, perhaps a discussion regarding his behavior is necessary. Today’s society possesses more knowledge than ever before in regards to healthcare, disease process, and nutrition, but alcohol continues to plague our nation, silently killing people and family members need to be the first line of defense in bringing this long battle to an end.

Works Cited

AHA, Alcohol and Heart Disease. (2013, May 18). Retrieved from American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Alcohol-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_305173_Article.jsp
Archdiocese Of St Louis, The Archives. (2013, May 13). Retrieved from Archdiocese Of St Louis: http://archstl.org/archives/page/st-patricks6th-and-biddle
Curtin, C. H. (2013, May 20). Culture of Ireland, history, people, clothing traditions, women, beliefs, foods, customs. Retrieved from Culture of Ireland: http://www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Ireland.html
Dezell, M. (2000). Irish America. New York : Doubleday.
Haggerty, B. (2013, May 17). Irish Culture and Customs, Irish Kitchen. Retrieved from Irish Culture and Customs: http://www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/2Kitch/1Home.html
Hillbom M, P. I. (2013, May 21). Seizures in alcohol-dependent patients: epidemiology, pathophysiology and management. Retrieved from PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14594442
Jessie. (2013, May 17). Irish-Americans, Racism, and the Pursuit of Whiteness. Retrieved from Racism Review: http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2010/03/17/irish-americans-racism-and-the-pursuit-of-whiteness/
Mac Donnchadha, S. (2013, May 20). Your Irish: Irish Foods and Recipes. Retrieved from Your Irish: http://www.yourirish.com/how-to-make-traditional-irish-stew
Wooten, D. (2013, May 17). Irish Americans-History, Irish emigration, Immigration unitl the famine years . Retrieved from Every Culture: http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Ha-La/Irish-Americans.html#ixzz2TTqegJFD…...

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