The Irish in America

Merry Christmas (Happy Birthday)

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The story goes that my great-grandmother, Margaret Mary Flannery, put the Christmas goose in the oven, then stepped into the side room and delivered her own special Christmas present. My grandmother Agnes Anastasia Celestine Flannery was born on December 25, 1915 in the house on Bayless in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Agnes Flannery, 1942

Agnes Flannery, 1942

Grandma’s father, James Patrick Flannery, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Irish immigrants. Her mother, Margaret Mary Flannery, was born in County Sligo.

James Patrick and Margaret Mary Flannery (also known as "Pa and Ma")

James Patrick and Margaret Mary Flannery (also known as “Pa and Ma”)

I always felt sorry for Grandma. Of all the days to be born, she had to share a birthday with Jesus. I loved my birthday because in my family it is something that is all mine. It is the one day where I get all the attention – all the presents, a cake with candles, and a special song sung just for me. (Is it obvious that I am a middle child?)

There are some people for whom a Christmas birthday would be a problem, but my grandma didn’t seem to mind a bit. She loved everything to do with Christmas — the music, the parties, the pageantry. She felt honored to share her day with Jesus, and enjoyed the special attention her December 25th birthday garnered for her.

I remember my aunts would make a birthday cake and we would light candles and sing “Happy Birthday” after Christmas dinner. We even gave Grandma a special present wrapped in birthday paper. But you know, even without theses special efforts, I think Grandma carved out a tiny bit of the Christmas festivities her personal birthday celebration.

On the last Christmas/Birthday we celebrated in 2004, I asked Grandma to tell me her favorite Christmas carol. I knew the answer, and it was difficult for Grandma to speak because of a stroke, but I just wanted to see the twinkle in her beautiful blue eyes when she said it.

“O Holy Night.”

Happy Birthday, Grandma. This one is for you…



Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

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