Irish holiday celebrated outside its origins

Ever since St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated on American soil in Boston in 1737, it has been quite popular. It is now associated with parades and various festivities, most of them involving some pubs and even more pints. There is no doubt that St. Patrick’s Day will also prompt some parties around USF, but not everybody going to such a party is Irish. This leads to amusing misconceptions.

For example, The Greenery, a bar close to USF, already put up decorations including “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” banners last week, but most of them featured the beer Heineken. I find this amusing because Heineken, while popular in Ireland for a few years now is brewed in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Of course, this marketing is to sell some beer, and Heineken comes in a green bottle, thus making it fair game.

Guinness (the choice beer of yours truly), on the other hand, has been brewed in Dublin, Ireland, since 1759. Yet, the dark and somewhat bitter beer is shunned for the lighter beer. This might be due to marketing, but also because the light beer is closer to what the beer-drinking American is used to. So, a beer that is not even from Ireland is favored over one that is.

Not to mention that a beer should never be green.

Historically, St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who died on March 17 in 461 A.D.

St. Patrick — a pagan born in Roman England (most likely Wales) around 385 A.D. — was abducted by Irish marauders and sold into slavery to work in Ireland. He escaped to France and converted to Christianity before returning to Ireland. There he was said to have been essential in reforming pagans to Christianity.

Other interpretations exist of why St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated (most of them not substantiated by any historical facts).

One variation tells of St. Patrick holding a sermon on a hilltop, which, according to legend, drove out all the snakes from Ireland. This is not very likely because there are, and never were, any snakes in Ireland.

Another unlikely version tells of St. Patrick raising people from the dead (although this might be helpful when you wake up with a hangover tomorrow).

Some believe that these stories of folklore are merely a metaphor for pagans being reformed to Christianity, thereby being reborn in a Christian sense of the word. The snakes might also be a metaphor for the pagan beliefs that were rejected by the Irish in part through St. Patrick’s sermons.

No matter what the origin of St. Patrick’s Day, this holiday is no longer seen as the purely Christian holiday it once was and is more secular in nature.

It still is cause for many people to celebrate their Irish heritage, though, no matter how remote their connection to Irish ancestors might be.

A clerk at the Kwik Mart on 42nd street, for example, keeps telling me that she is one-sixteenth Irish, every time I buy Guinness at the store.

One thing is certain. No matter what meaning this holiday might have, it will be a reason to have a party in a time where recession, terrorism and looming wars otherwise do not give much reason to celebrate. So who cares if you’re not even Irish at all?


Sebastian Meyer is a juniormajoring in environmental