I am of Polish, Russian and Italian descent. I have no ancestors from Dublin or Cork. When you say Kilkenny, I think you’re quoting “South Park.” All of this is just as true on March 17 as it is any other day of the year. In short, I don’t subscribe to the notion that “everyone’s a little Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day.
You may think I’m being needlessly harsh, like I’m a St. Patrick’s Scrooge who doesn’t deserve to drink your green beer anyway. But recently I realized that it’s hypocritical of people who rage against the cultural appropriation of black, Asian or Native American culture to appropriate Irish-ness, even for one day a year. At the very least, those who see St. Patrick’s Day as a drinking holiday should juxtapose that ritual with the historical and religious significance of the day.
So I spoke with the woman who knows more about Irish history and heritage than anyone else I know, Juilene Osborne-McKnight, our faculty adviser and associate professor of communication. Last year, McKnight released her first non-fiction book, “The Story We Carry in Our Bones: Irish History for Americans.” And she agreed with me about how sad it was that people celebrate the holiday “without knowing why they’re doing it or the history behind it, or even knowing who St. Patrick was.”
The first and foremost thing I learned from McKnight was the irony that St. Patrick himself was not Irish, either! He was of Roman, Briton and Welsh descent. He never “drove snakes out of Ireland,” as it’s often said. In fact, McKnight told me St. Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland because two monks fabricated much of his hagiography; he is only one of several people credited with bringing Catholicism to the nation.
As for the feast day, it is indeed a time to celebrate; the Catholic Church even creates a Lenten dispensation for St. Patrick’s Day if it falls on a Friday (and it will in 2017). According to McKnight, Irish-Americans began to celebrate with parades when they were still new to the country, to show their neighbors they were a subethnic group to be proud of. Ireland, in fact, adopted the parade tradition from us about 10 years ago, when previously they only went to Mass and held family dinners.
I can’t make you refrain from celebrating the holiday how you want to, but remember that American drinking sprees truly illustrate St. Patrick’s Day’s “corrupted customs” when you consider that a group of hard-working immigrants merely wanted to show pride in their history.
March is about far more than one holiday, too! Spring sports are already starting, and our page 7 reflects that, with articles by Chris Shaddock and Hutton Jackson. More talk will certainly take place about the vacant Supreme Court seat, which Benjamin Cunningham discusses on page 4. And while Spring Fling takes place in April, many on campus will be anticipating the arrival of Love and Theft, which Kimmie Semiday covers on the front page.
Until next time, DeSales,