The Meaning of St. Patrick’s Day to a Proud Irish-American

Ever since I can remember, Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated by heading to an Irish parade with the entire family clothed in traditional Irish sweaters and as many shamrocks as possible.

During the early years, I watched with sparkling eyes as float after float and dancer after dancer passed by my designated spot. My favorite part was when my uncle and his friends would pass, playing traditional Irish songs on the bagpipes. When I was old enough, I attended Irish step dancing lessons every week and had the honor of dancing in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade.

After the parade, my conventionally huge Irish family would gather at my grandmother’s house for a hearty meal of corned beef and potatoes. It was tradition.

When I came to Penn State, the tradition changed. It seemed that my student body was intent on making the holiday tradition centered on how much beer you could possibly drink in one day.

It is hard to watch as student after student, decked-out in shamrocks and head-to-toe green, runs out to celebrate the holiday by getting drinking in excess.

As much as I love Penn State, I question the way that students have come to treat cultures. Without a shred of respect for a culture, students will take any aspect that is appealing to them and use it for their own amusement.

While the Irish love to adopt others into their culture (I unofficially declared my best friend “Irish-at-heart” due to her love of the culture), these days it feels like some Penn State students have taken it too far. The relationship between the State College community and Penn State students is already strained because of the drinking culture that exists at the school.

We’re young, we’re wild, we’re free. There is so much more to the Irish culture than our prized brews and booze, and although holidays like St. Patty’s aim to celebrate the culture across the pond in a way that’s festive and fun, oftentimes it can feel like these holidays are being used to appropriate a culture in a way that’s hurtful. This year, celebrate responsibly in more ways than one.