How College Students Ruin St. Patrick’s Day

There are many reasons why I detest how my fellow college students celebrate this holiday, and they occur every single year. Like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, these once holy days (Holidays… holy days… see the relationship?) have been usurped by capitalism, materialism, and other terrible, corrupt -isms. Except, unlike Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it isn’t just that the American culture at large, particularly American college culture, has usurped a former Catholic holiday. That’s something that, quite frankly, nobody seems to care about. (Because the Catholic Church is old fashioned and dying, right? Right?) No, what pushes my buttons is that on top of that, our culture is mocking the Irish.


Shots fired.

Why does St. Patrick’s Day exist in the first place? Why is it associated with the Irish? Well, St. Patrick – to make a long and beautiful story very short – was a Catholic missionary who is credited with the conversion of the Irish people to Christianity. (And, as a bonus, also drove all snakes out of Ireland. Whut-whut.) In one of his most famous and legendary sermons, he used the three-leaf clover as a kind of metaphor to explain the Holy Trinity to the native Irish people. St. Patrick is also well known for encouraging the Irish natives to reconcile their already held traditions and culture to their faith – and this blending of faith and culture is arguably what made Irish Catholicism so incredibly successful and pervasive. We have the Irish Catholics to thank for private Confessions, numerous ascetic Saints, and gorgeous Christian art.

When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day meant something very different than what my fellow college students seem to think that it means. Having been an Irish dancer since I was a small child, St. Patrick’s Day was a day that my family and so many others celebrated the incredible depth and complexity of Irish culture and shared it with those who hadn’t ever experienced it. Every year, often during the entire week that contained the holiday, we danced at elementary schools, church celebrations, retirement homes, hospitals, and more. We taught these people, young and old, healthy and sick, about the beauty that comes from a culture that has so much richness and tradition. We even taught them how to dance, too. Every different kind of Irish dance, especially the traditional and non-traditional set dances, tell a story in both the music and the movement. It brings people and communities together for the purpose of encouraging joy and pride in a culture that owes very, very much to the values that St. Patrick helped the Irish develop.

Now, compare that celebration to the ones I see every St. Patrick’s Day on the University of Michigan’s campus. Crowds of drunk, obscenely green students stumbling out of the bars at 10 AM. Girls wearing neon green mini dresses that are supposed to somehow make them resemble a leprechaun. People getting utterly trashed for an entire week, using the excuse that they’re “celebrating” the holiday. Wasted customers coming into the dining hall, asking me to put booze on their sandwiches (yes, this has actually happened).

Can you see why this bothers me so much?

Everything behind the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day has been utterly cast aside in favor of everything that is the opposite of what it stands for. Where St. Patrick taught about grace, moderation, compassion, salvation, forgiveness, and holiness, our culture promotes sin, overindulgence, selfishness, drunkenness, and more. And quite frankly, there’s very little in our American “celebration” of St. Patrick’s Day that actually celebrates Irish culture at all. None of the fiery desire for freedom, the national pride, the literature, the history, the art, the dance, the music, or the beliefs of the Irish get celebrated. This holiday, so meaningful to people who actually love Ireland and the Irish, has been reduced to an excuse to drink alcohol without any semblance of self-control.

It’s embarrassing. And sad.

So, as both a Catholic and an Irish dancer, I choose to celebrate this holiday as it is meant to be: in honor of the great St. Patrick.

And David danced before the LORD with all his might. (2 Samuel 6:14)


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