The Irish Cultural Center welcomes spring with the crosses of St. Brigid

WEST SPRINGFIELD — In Irish culture, St. Brigid’s Day on February 1 signifies the start of spring. Prior to that day, the Irish Cultural Center of Western New England taught artisans how to make St. Brigid’s crosses on January 27.

The centre, at 429 Morgan Road, West Springfield, is a non-profit charity. Mary Ellen Lowney, the centre’s events coordinator, told Reminder Publishing that its mission is to promote Irish culture, through arts, music, language and heritage. In addition, the center offers travel experiences in Ireland.

Although the Irish Cultural Center (ICC) sponsored Christmas carols earlier this winter, the cross-creation session was its first in-person event with large attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lowney said this Irish craft dates back to around AD 450, when St. Brigid made a cross while playing with wreaths, while sitting on her father’s deathbed.
Attendees at last week’s craft session in West Springfield used straw and colored pipe cleaners. At their head, Mary Ellen Russell, educator, and Réaltín McElhinney, Irish Fulbright scholar.

“Fulbright is a cultural and educational exchange [program]said McElhinney. “I teach Irish as a cultural ambassador.”

McElhinney came to the United States in August 2021 and will remain there for the remainder of the school year. She teaches full time, dividing her work between the Irish Cultural Center and an intermediate class at Elms College in Chicopee.

“Language is my passion,” McElhinney said. “Teaching the Irish language is the key to the story.”

Every Tuesday, McElhinney hosts a Zoom meeting with people from America and Ireland. The majority of people attending the virtual session are those McElhinney met during his time in the United States. She said the purpose of these weekly get-togethers is to connect with one another and learn more about both cultures.

“I’m here to teach, but also to learn,” McElhinney said. As much as it spreads Irish culture, it also immerses itself in American culture.

“The ICC does an excellent job of promoting [Irish culture] and I’m happy to be part of this journey,” McElhinney said. She said visiting the Irish Cultural Center felt like she was at home.

On February 1, the Irish Cultural Center also held a raffle to commemorate the true start of the spring season. The raffle prizes included a trip for two to Ireland, a gold cross from an Irish jeweller, and a gift card to the Irish pub, located in the central Morgan Road building.

Although Irish Cultural Center programs don’t require pre-registration, Lowney suggests calling ahead to give organizers a general idea of ​​the expected number of attendees. The center welcomes everyone.

Irish Cultural Center sponsors include Westfield Bank, Freedom Credit Union, Eastern States Exposition, Bates Fullam Insurance Agency Inc., Bresnahan Insurance Agency Inc., JSD Mechanical Inc., Complete Payroll Solutions, Polish National Credit Union and Ferriter Law.

More information about the ICC can be found at www.irishcenterwne.org and www.facebook.com/IrishCulturalCenter.

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