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Leprechauns Have Feelings Too

In elementary school if you showed up to class on March 17th and were not wearing green you were labeled as the Scrooge of St. Patrick’s Day and paid the price by being pinched endlessly. A weird sort of immature torture if you ask me, even though it is all in good fun, for a holiday that most of us have absolutely no reason to celebrate.

SAY WHAAAAAT?

Has anyone ever actually thought of that? Sure, we all celebrate holidays that are frivolous just for the fun of being festive, like Valentine’s Day or April Fool’s Day, but these holidays are not religious based. St. Patrick’s Day historically was a feast to commemorate Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, as well as celebrating the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. In reality, only 34.5 million of America’s 318.9 million should give a bother about this holiday, that’s 11% of the country that has a valid excuse to chug green beer on this day. To me, it seems like we are being a little bit insensitive to those people who do celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for religious reasons.

In America, we tend to have a bad habit of taking other culture’s festivities and misconstruing them to become part of our own traditions. Sure, we are a melting pot of different ideals and backgrounds, that is what makes our country so diverse, but when exactly did it become so widely accepted to observe a holiday that has no meaning to you? With that kind of logic, the same amount of Americans who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day might as well be celebrating Kwanzaa and the Chinese New Year too. While the US does not officially recognize St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday, the amount of influence put on the holiday is unavoidable to citizens (for example, the water in the fountain outside the White House is dyed green for the day). So out of all of the holidays we could steal from our multicultural society, why was St. Patrick’s Day chosen as one of the lucky few to be accepted so widely?

It all comes down to cultural appropriation, which is the adoption of other elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group who may exploit and change the original meaning to better fit their ideals and practices. This can be seen throughout history as America adopted traditionally Pagan holidays and made them more appealing to their growing country by adding elements of Christianity to them. Halloween, for example, has roots in a Celtic harvest festival but only became popular in the colonies when it was renamed All Saints’ Eve to appeal to more Western Christian beliefs. This ideology explains a lot why St. Patrick’s Day became popular over the decades, as it already observed Christian practices and the number of Irish immigrants moving to America was increasing steadily.

The problem with cultural appropriation is that the more dominant culture who is adopting the traditions tends to pick and choose which parts of the original culture they like the most. When was the last time you recall you and your friends hitting up mass on March 17th? Oh right, because that is not as cool as slamming Irish car bombs and proclaiming “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” down at the local bar.

The collegiate culture is definitely playing a large part in the continuance of this predominately American issue. While it is less likely for us to notice some of these small strains of racism and bigotry because our generation is much more accepting than the ones before us, judgment of these touchier issues become blurred when alcohol is in the mix. For instance, Cinco de Mayo is another huge drinking holiday here in the US, where college kids everywhere enjoy taking tequila shots and eating traditional Mexican cuisine (Chipotle, right?). But I can guarantee that 75% of college students believe that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day, when in reality it is to celebrate the unlikely victory of the Mexican army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862. What does that have to do with our Cinco de Mayo festivities? Absolutely nothing.

So tonight when you and your friends are donning your green accessories so no one tries to pinch you consider this, you’re kind of perpetuating this idea that it is ok to disregard others cultural heritage and do whatever you please, despite potentially coming off as ignorant.

Why? Because ‘Merica.

Zoe is a junior at UCF studying Radio and Television with a minor in Business while she waits for her long lost grandmother to tell her she is actually the Princess of Genovia. She loves musicals, photography, waterskiing, and tricking people into thinking she is well rounded. In her spare time, you can find her speed walking around campus attempting to dodge as many longboards as possible. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @causeimazoe if you're interested in learning about her oh so advenurous life.
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