She nibbled at a plate of corned beef, pausing frequently to applaud and cheer a group of young children performing traditional Irish dances.
As the St. Patrick’s Day celebration continued, Angela Yeo, 28, of Toledo listened closely as her mother shared stories about the challenges her Irish great-great grandfather had faced when he immigrated to the United States.
There was so much prejudice and hostility directed at those early Irish immigrants that many families stopped speaking Gaelic and suppressed other cultural traditions — so that they would be less visible targets, Mrs. Yeo said.
“That’s why it’s so nice to see the little girls doing the dances and be able to enjoy the food and music today,” said Mrs. Yeo, one among hundreds of Toledo-area residents who attended the Irish festival at the Knights of Columbus hall in West Toledo on Sunday.
The annual event, sponsored by The Hibernians, is an opportunity to do what many of their ancestors were never able to do in public: Celebrate their Irish culture, organizers said.
In addition to traditional Irish food, refreshments, vendors, and dancing, the family friendly event featured traditional and contemporary music performed by Toledo’s own Extra Stout.
Although beer is sold at the event, Bob and Lisa Burns of Toledo said they enjoy the Hibernians’ St. Patrick’s Day celebration because there’s more emphasis placed on cultural activities that children and adults can enjoy.
When their daughter Morgan was a child, the Burnses’ brought her to the same St. Patrick’s Day event, and after watching other children dance, she began taking dance lessons, they said.
“Many people forget that St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s great to see tables filled with children, parents, and grandparents.”
St. Patrick’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is named after the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland and marks the arrival of Christianity there. It also celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish. The date was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and is observed by the Catholic Church.
The Lucas County Hibernians are affiliated with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic service group dating to 1565, and The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, which came along later.
American orders were formed in 1836 and 1894, respectively, largely to keep Irish immigrants from being exploited.
Established to protect 16th-century priests from persecution by King Henry VIII of England, Hibernians have evolved into a broader educational and philanthropic religious group.
The Toledo Hibernian Irish Festival, an annual two-day event, is slated for July 19 and 20 in downtown Toledo.
Contact Federico Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.