Hibernian: “of, relating to, or characteristic of Ireland or the Irish”

The first thing one realizes as they search for Irish events across the country is that Irish shenanigans are not limited to St. Patrick’s Day! The second is that there is usually a strong connection between Gaelic gatherings and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

What is this mysterious organization?

Hibernian "Key Card" from the Kurst collection

Defined as the oldest American Irish Catholic organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians was founded in America in 1836 and traces its roots to similar societies existing in Ireland for over 300 years, which were born out of the need to protect the Catholic faith in occupied Ireland. Similarly, there was a need for faith (and sometimes life) protection in American in the early to mid-1800’s as massive amounts of Irish immigrants fled “The Great Hunger” and needed protection, support, and assistance as they assimilated in their new country.

There are currently 419 clubs, divisions, and boards in 38 states and the District of Columbia; some may surprise you. Montana has 7 (think coal mining immigrants) and Florida has 11 (even the Irish want to retire where it’s warm). Here is a link to this comprehensive listing:

Although still available (and sometimes needed) for faith protection, the Ancient Order of Hibernians has evolved into an anchor that fosters and preserves the continuation of Irish culture in art, dance, music, and sports. Although generations away from our immigrant ancestors, we reap the benefits of the ancient order…yes, by attending their events, but also by our ability to join this historic organization and allowing it to continue its good work. The application process is a bit dated in the sense that women can only join the “Ladies Ancient Order” but it is a worthwhile journey to your heritage. Here are the links to the applications:

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