The nation is readying itself for the fast-approaching holiday celebrating the patron saint of Ireland: St. Patrick’s Day. Many people associate St. Patrick’s Day with different things. Some think of the smiling faces and blurs of green and orange at parades, while others may think of the clinks of Guinness glasses in a crowded bar. On the home front, Fairfield students are eagerly anticipating Sham Jam. In my eyes, St. Patrick’s Day signifies the return of my favorite drink, the Shamrock Shake. I, along with many others, dress up in green and head to the New York City parade with friends for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always a day of celebration, but a somber religious holiday. Starting in the 17th century, March 17 was a religious feast day that remembered the death of St. Patrick. For centuries following, this was known as a day of temperance and religious observation. It appears that over time, St. Patrick’s Day has spread beyond Ireland; what used to be considered an Irish holiday is now celebrated by all ethnicities and people from different backgrounds in the United States. I believe the U.S. adaptation of St. Patrick’s Day is more than just a drinking holiday, but a way for all citizens to come together.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day transformed in the U.S. by the end of the 18th century. The small Irish celebrations became public events and parades. By the 20th century, St. Patrick’s Day spread across the U.S. and was celebrated by people with no Irish heritage. What originally started out as a modest feast day in Ireland became a huge celebration in the U.S. that stretches throughout the month of March. Through the re-branding of St. Patrick’s Day as a drinking holiday, most people have long forgotten the somber meaning behind March 17.
In an article from the Baltimore Sun, reporter Mike Cronin suggests that St. Patrick’s Day is the closest thing that the U.S. has to “National Immigrant Day.” Instead of Irish-Americans quietly observing March 17 in their own homes, the entire country comes together to celebrate a national holiday. I agree with Cronin; in choosing to expand the commemoration of St. Patrick’s Day beyond its religious meaning, we have gained a commemoration of the diversity in America.
Holidays such as Mardi Gras or Cinco de Mayo are all religiously or culturally significant celebrations. I believe that celebrating these holidays is more than an excuse to go to a party, but an appreciation of all the different cultures and religious backgrounds that have been brought to the United States. The reason why so many different culturally specific holidays are celebrated in the U.S. is because of the diversity in our country. The fact that we, as American citizens, have the ability to observe and participate in all of these celebrations is an incredible opportunity. We should celebrate, not only these holidays, but the diversity that we have in our country.
St. Patrick’s Day is no longer a celebration of the Irish, but just a celebration. The United States is known for being a melting pot and I think that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the best examples of that trademark. People from all different kinds of ethnic backgrounds will be seen wearing green and orange on Thursday. They may not know it, but rather than showing off Irish colors, they are exemplifying what it means to be American.