Designated by Congress in 1995, March is National Irish-American Heritage Month. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th. While not a legal holiday anywhere in the United States, it is nonetheless widely recognized and celebrated throughout the country. It is observed as a celebration of Irish and Irish-American culture. Celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, eating and drinking, religious observances, and parades. Everyone can be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
There are many people of Irish descent living in Michigan, but what do we know about them? Irish immigrants migrated in droves to Michigan during the mid-1800s. In Western Michigan they worked for lumber barons or the railroads, but the biggest industry was fishing, which they knew from their homeland. In Eastern Michigan it was canal-building, longshoremen, and iron workers in Detroit. They were sometimes paid in land. Thence came The Irish Hills in Jackson and Lenawee counties. It was so named because the rolling landscape reminded those fleeing the potato famine of home. The St.Joseph Shrine Catholic Church on US-12 has a potato famine memorial–a very large rock from Ireland set in the middle of a grassy area. The Irish Hills of Southern Michigan has several events celebrating the Irish during the month of March:
- March 1 – Tecumseh Center hosts the Irish Rovers farewell tour.
- March 2 and March 16 – Chelsea Alehouse offers Celtic music.
- March 8 – Chelsea Big 400 Maple Festival. This Maple festival started in Chelsea and now includes a 20 x 20 mile area (hence 400). There are tours, pancake breakfasts, release of maple wine, and more in several communities.
- March 8-9 – the second annual Taste of the Irish Hills! has 19 restaurants involved. Tickets are $20 per person.
- March 8-23 – Hidden Lake Gardens bulb show.
- March 25-30 – Ann Arbor film festival.
- Anytime – 10 wineries comprise the Pioneer Wine Trail of South East Michigan. All of these wineries are located in or near the Irish Hills. Tours and tastings are available each weekend.