Tipping a pint for Saint Patrick

Annual celebration evolved over the years

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Contrary to popular belief, there is more to St. Patrick’s Day " a holiday celebrated each year on March 17 " than consuming alcohol.

St. Patrick’s Day is a religious feast day as well as the death anniversary of St. Patrick, a Christian missionary and the patron saint of Ireland.

According to Ninian Mellamphy, professor emeritus at Western, St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated for several reasons in the past.

“The first 1,500 years of the celebration had to do with the fact that St. Patrick became a symbol for a missionary activity that converted Ireland’s religion to Christianity,” Mellamphy said.

“St. Patrick’s Day was a great celebration of the adoption of Christianity.”

However, Mellamphy mentioned the reason behind the holiday changed around the 19th century, when citizens of Ireland migrated to North America due to the Great Potato Famine.

“All these people started celebrating their success of adapting to the North American life,” Mellamphy said. “Even immigrants [from other cultural backgrounds] joined in to celebrate with the Irish the very phenomenon and the success of the immigrants.”

While St. Patrick’s Day is largely celebrated in North America, many individuals are unaware of the traditional practices that take place on this day.

“St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally an Irish Catholic holiday and is actually a feast day rather than a day for drinking in vast excess,” Mike Laing-Fraser, vice-president of Western’s Irish Cultural Society, said.

Traditionally, Irish families would attend church in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day and celebrate with dance, drinks and a feast in the afternoon.

Similarly, a number of events have been organized for students at The Wave and The Spoke Lounge, including a live performance by the famous Rick McGhie, Irish dancers, green beer and much more.

As well, this year for the first time, The Spoke has acquired an additional liquor license for the lounge to make up for its lost patio space.

“We have never missed a St. Patrick’s Day as far as I can remember,” Charlotte Hall, site manager of The Wave, said.

“We try not to shy away from that day because it is a really great event and everyone is on campus all the time anyways, so they might as well come join us first.”

“Western’s way of celebrating is fairly typical of the St. Patty’s drinking-day stereotype. That being said, the events at The Spoke and The Wave cater well to students on campus. Certainly the atmosphere is somewhat more representative of the traditional holiday than a pub crawl,” Laing-Fraser added.

According to Mellamphy, St. Patrick’s Day has moved from a religious holiday to a more cultural one. As a result, even students without an Irish background join in to celebrate this day.

“I love St. Patrick’s Day,” Peter Sum, a first-year science student, said. Although he was unaware of the historical basis for the holiday, Sum stressed its broad-ranging appeal.

“[It’s about] having a lot of fun, getting all your friends together and making sure you all have an awesome time.”

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