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Luck of the Irish

Students took to town for the annual Blarney Blowout at local bars last year. (Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian)

Students took to town for the annual Blarney Blowout at local bars last year. (Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian)

Many minor holidays in the United States get turned into celebrations of great proportions. Most that originated around food and prayer have turned into a socially acceptable excuse to eat massive amounts of food, see family and friends and have a day off from school, if you’re lucky.

Our lives get crazy, hectic and busy, and a special day, no matter how special it is supposed to be, gives people something to look forward to annually. An example is St. Patrick’s Day, which is right around the corner. The number of American college students, or even Americans in general, who would actually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day if it didn’t revolve around beer and myths of gaining some sort of luck, is probably very low. But they love the excuse to have fun.

However, many celebrators’ knowledge of St. Patrick’s Day is limited to wearing green and involves leprechauns, clovers, rainbows, pots of gold and everything else Irish. It also gives us an excuse to have a milkshake from McDonald’s, as long as it is the Shamrock Shake.

Little do we know, “the real St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Britain around A.D. 390 to an aristocratic Christian family with a townhouse, a country villa, and plenty of slaves. What’s more, Patrick professed no interest in Christianity as a young boy, (classics professor Philip) Freeman (of Luther College in Iowa) noted. At 16, Patrick’s world turned: he was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years,” according to John Roach for National Geographic News. A voice told Patrick to go back to Britain to return to his family, and then to Ireland where he was ordained as a priest from a bishop, and went back to spend his life trying to convert Irish citizens to Christianity.

“According to St. Patrick’s Day lore, Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Christian holy trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” Roach said. We now view it as a symbol of luck, hence the saying “luck of the Irish.” While the traditional Irish shamrock only has three leaves, the four-leafed clover is luckier because it is an uncommon mutation to find.

American culture has deemed these symbols and the holiday to be a big deal. Ever since I was young, on St. Patrick’s Day, my friends always wore green to school, and in younger grades pretended that there were leprechauns running around the hallways and classroom. It hasn’t always been like this, though.

According to Roach, “Until the 1970s, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was a minor religious holiday. A priest would acknowledge the feast day, and families would celebrate with a big meal, but that was about it. ‘St. Patrick’s Day was basically invented in America by Irish-Americans,’ Freeman said.”

Roach writes, “Irish-American history expert Timothy Meagher said Irish charitable organizations originally celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with banquets in places such as Boston, Massachusetts; Savannah, Georgia; and Charleston, South Carolina.”

This tradition has continued in Boston. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a popular event to attend and often falls during college students’ spring breaks. So if you’re like me and not going to a tropical place, you could head to the streets flooded with a sea of green.

Americans have many traditions for St. Patrick’s Day, like parades in largely Irish immigrant cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. The Chicago River is dyed green. Pints and pints of Guinness are drunk. Roach emphasizes the large number, “On any given day 5.5 million pints of Guinness, the famous Irish stout brand, are consumed around the world. On St. Patrick’s Day, that number more than doubles to 13 million pints, said Beth Davies Ryan, global corporate-relations director of Guinness.”

This is crazy, but the bars must love it. Their businesses have a constant flow of customers all day and night, especially in cities and college towns. The morale is high while people celebrate.

There are multiple websites that rate the best college St. Patrick’s Day parties in the United States. Bro Bible rated Blarney Blowout at the University of Massachusetts at No. 9 out of 15. Not bad for a large state school. The post includes photos, a YouTube video and a few student quotes. It sure was a blowout last year, causing problems at the Townehouses. That is bound to happen with a couple thousand students packed into one area.

It’s important to have fun on St. Patrick’s Day and follow the traditions, but it’s also important to be safe. We have a name to uphold. The school’s and your own reputations are just as important as commemorating and thanking St. Patrick for his legacy, along with thanking those who have blown the holiday up so much to make it almost as much of a fun American holiday as an Irish one.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at kpodoref@umass.edu.

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