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St Patrick’s Day has it’s own special place in the student calender, because it embodies what we students like to do best: Drink, dress up, something stupid and engage in the sort of revelries that would have left St Patrick himself frowning with disapproval. This is precisely why we English celebrate this foreign patron saint more than our own. St George was cool slaying dragons and all, but his feast day doesn’t lend itself to drunken parties very well. Then again, neither does St Patrick by driving the snakes from Ireland, so how did drunken partying come into the equation?
The reason why festivities are associated with St Patrick’s Day is because it marked a break in the Lent fast so people could eat and drink alcohol. So, if you want an excuse to break from that diet then the 17th of March is your chance. Since then, St Patrick’s Day has morphed into a day were people dress at leprechauns and wear green, drink Guinness and Irish whisky, and, for the most part, celebrate Irishness without having any tangible connection to Ireland itself. I, at least, can claim to have a tangible connection to Ireland, albeit a slightly tenacious one, so celebrating St Patrick’s Day feels at least slightly legitimate for me personally. More people arguably celebrate St Patrick’s Day outside Ireland than inside Ireland, it’s a festival globally instigated by persons of Irish ancestry such as myself in America, Canada and Britain, even if it was only their great- great grandfather who was actually Irish and they have only an inkling of Irish blood in their veins. Given this ambiguity, it’s not hard to see how everyone else can get involved and, in essence, pretend to be Irish for the day.
But why Irish, and not French, German or Scottish? There is certainly something cool about the Irish, and it can’t just be the accent alone which explains their popularity (but maybe for girls it is). I think being Irish is what, subconsciously what many of us would all like to be in real life. To have a good sense of humour, be successfully romantic, musically talented, and to have an identity of mystical Celtic origins but also an identity of innocence. Never has the Irish flag been raised in the conquest of others, and the same can’t be said for the Union Flag nor the George Cross. Ireland has, mainly, been the underdog of European history, and with that comes a streak of rebelliousness and freedom. The famous “Freedom!” cry from Braveheart is like a rallying call for the Celtic way of life over the ridged, grey and ordered lives we are forced to live in 21st century Britain.
To celebrate St Patrick’s Day is in some ways to to celebrate an identity that we wished we possessed, and maybe that’s why we drink so much at St Patrick’s Day. Alcohol is a drug to make us somebody we wished we were. However, whilst you can’t magic yourself Irish unless you are born and raised there, you can still be like the idealised Irish stereotype. You can teach yourself to be musically talented, to have good humour and to a great extent to be successfully romantic if you try hard enough, and alcohol doesn’t have to be involved either. Whilst there are only around four million people who can legitimately claim possess an Irish identity, potentially anyone can possess the positive flavours of Irishness.