Each year in grade school, my teachers would talk about St. Patrick’s Day and its importance. I have no strong or notable Irish heritage, so I never particularly cared about the celebration. However, I happen to know a bit about the holiday beyond parties and parades.
St. Patrick’s Day is like Valentine’s Day, in that they both are religious in origin, honoring different saints. This is why I learned so much of the history behind both feast days in my Catholic school. However, St. Patrick’s Day often gives the Irish a sense of pride in their heritage. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t feel pride; I’m saying that too many people aren’t aware of the meaning behind holidays like this.
While Valentine’s Day might not be just an excuse to drink, it is definitely an excuse to have yet another commercialized holiday with certain social norms and expectations.
My problem with people celebrating these holidays has nothing to do with those celebrating for the real meaning. People with real patriotism and pride for their country, whether it be the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, the Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo, or American’s on the Fourth of July, have every right to celebrate. Be proud of who you are! I know that I’m mostly German, but I wish that I had a more ethnic background because I think it’d be fun to have that sort of cultural background and identity.
But using “holidays” as an excuse to simply drink alcohol in excess is ridiculous. I’m not trying to be the Grinch of these celebrations, but I don’t understand. If someone wants to go to a party or host a party, just do it without having it surround itself with another group’s culture. It’s an excuse to get drunk, and while I understand the appeal of drinking, it can turn into a mess. Cinco de Mayo parties often have people dressed up in ponchos and wearing sombreros, claiming they have to drink tequila. St. Paddy’s Day calls for people to wear green and drink green beer or Irish car bombs. In a way, they are mocking other cultures, which is never acceptable.
USA TODAY College recently listed the 15 most infamous college celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m sure everyone has heard of Unofficial at our dear neighbor, the University of Illinois. There is no need to have such an emphasis on drinking for this holiday.
A more serious point, however, is that when people drink on these holidays, it often leads to more DUI arrests and/or fatalities. This is definitely not something to be dismissed. Articles all over the web have addressed that different states, counties and cities are cracking down on the celebrating and have been since Friday. Many plan to until Tuesday, after most festivities should be over.
In 2011, there was one fatality from an alcohol-related driving accident in the state of Illinois, according to the Department of Transportation. While this is much lower than other states, it is still one too many. There should not have been any, because even if someone is drinking, they should know that driving is never an option.
For people still planning to celebrate Monday night after class, good luck. Hopefully you planned ahead and don’t have any homework or assignments due because you were counting on celebrating at one of the Irish bars in Bloomington-Normal or you are attending a party. But be safe no matter what your decision, and try to think about the culture that’s behind the holiday, not just the indulgence.
Grace Johnson is a senior publishing major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.