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6The Daily Tar Heel Thursday, March 17,
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By CATHY McHUGH
Faith and begorra! The day for the wearing o' the
green has indeed arrived.
Today Carolina students (along with most Americans)
will undoubtedly scrounge through their wardrobes in
search of something green to wear many may even
sport buttons that plead, "Kiss Me I'm Irish," or "Honorary
Blarney Stone, Kiss Me," in the hopes of attracting a
member of the opposite sex. Sundown will see an mass
exodus of the Irish and the "Irish-for-a-day" to the local
bars, restaurants and clubs searching for the best drink
specials, corned-beef-and-cabbage-dinners and prizes
offered for the most outrageous Irish costumes.
That's what St. Patrick's Day seems to be all about
in this country. Whether or not they claim to have Irish
ancestry, very few Americans care that the patron saint
of Ireland wasn't Irish, but Welsh, that his real name
was Succat, not Patrick, or that, at age 16, he was
kidnapped by pirates from his home and sold into slavery.
Or that he worked for an Irish chieftain where he tended
sheep for six years on Slemish Mountain in northeast
Ireland before escaping. Or that he returned to Ireland
as a missionary 20 years later to become "The Voice
of the Irish." What Americans do care about is having
fun, and stereotypical, mischievous leprechauns with
their pots o' gold, the colorful shamrocks and lucky four
leaf clovers. The lively limericks and the Blarney Stone
all fit together perfectly to create a holiday dedicated
to the art of drinking, joking around and having a good
But while Americans are wearing green, organizing
grand parades and drinking green beer, across the
Atlantic on the Emerald Isle, the Irish are going about
things a wee bit differently. Maura Mast, a second-year
graduate student in mathematics from South Bend, Ind.,
who did her undergraduate work at Notre Dame
University, has an Irish mother. She says that, unlike in
the United States, St. Patrick's Day is a religious holiday
for the Catholics in Ireland, and it's a big day for children.
"I know they get a day off from school, and our
grandparents always sent us badges with the colors
of Ireland (green, orange and white) that the Irish
children wear," she said. "We always got real live
shamrocks to plant and grow."
Mary Mast, Maura's mother, is a native of Dundalk,
Ireland, which is about 15 miles south of the border
between Northern and Southern Ireland. She moved to
the United States in 1959, when she married an American,
Cecil Mast, who is a mathematics professor at Notre
She says she immediately noticed a distinct difference
between the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in America
as compared to Ireland. "I was amazed when I came
to this country and saw the huge celebrations, especially
once when I spent the day in Chicago. They actually
paint a green line down the street, dye the river green.
In New York City it's the same type of thing. The main
difference is that it's a religious holiday in Ireland, a holy
day of obligation you must go to Mass. It's an Irish
holiday equivalent to the American Labor Day or
Memorial Day. At the Mass we sing various hymns to
St Patrick, and everyone wears shamrocks reafcham
rocks. But, other than that, you don't see as much
wearing green, except on the young people."
Mast says the celebrations in Ireland are not nearly
as boisterous as the Americans'. "In Dublin there is the
Industrial Parade different companies all have floats,
but it's rather low key as compared to the parades
here in cities such as Chicago and New York. There are
girls wearing Irish kilts, a group of step dancers, a group
of bagpipe players and perhaps a group from the army.
"When l was young, the day started out with church
in the morning and the singing of the St. Patrick hymns,
then the afternoon parade, and then everyone would
go to the horse races. This was in the '50s, mind you
.? 7; G '
the whole country closed down, even the pubs were
closed this is a tragedy in Ireland! But, I'm sure this
has changed the licensing laws are different now."
Mast said that she and her husband celebrate St.
Patrick's day by attending Mass at The Notre Dame
Chapel said by a friend of theirs who is an Irish priest
and the mass is in Gaelic. "We usually have a party
on or near the day with our family and a group of
Irish friends and traditional Irish foods we'd never
eat corned beef and cabbage in Ireland on St. Patrick's
Day," she says.
Mast says that corned beef was most popular just
after the potato famine of 1846 because it was cheap.
Because of the famine, thousands of Irish came to
America, bringing with the popular dish with them.
Corned beef is now more associated with Irish Americans
than with the Irish.
Instead, she serves ham, a stuffed turkey, colcannon
(a potato dish with cabbage and onions), turnips,
homemade Irish sodabread and Irish (dried) peas. For
dessert, there's trifle and flan. "Then we have Irish coffee
with a toast (in Gaelic): 'Slainte Agus Saol Agat,' which
means 'Health and Long Life to You,' " she says.
Maura says she is usually home for the holiday, but,
because she is studying for her comprehensive exam,
she will miss her parents' party. But she doesn't intend
to go out and drink green beer tonight either. "I don't
have any plans, although I might go to the Notre Dame
(vs. SMU at the Dean Dome) game if I can get tickets.
That'd be a good Irish thing to do."
Two Irish UNC graduate students, Fiona Doloughan
and David Thompson, also have no plans for tonight.
They are married, and both of them hail from different
parts of Northern Ireland where there is little celebration
of St. Patrick's Day.
Doloughan, who was born in Newtonards, Northern
Ireland, says she never celebrated St. Patrick's Day when
she was growing up her school only got the day
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off if the boys' rugby team won the championship game
which was traditionally played on that day. Actually,
she has only celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Ireland once
she went to Belfast after she had been at Warwick
University in England. "I was disappointed, too, because
there was really nothing going on," she said.
St. Patrick's day is recognized in Northern Ireland, but
there are fewer celebrations. Ireland was divided in 1921,
when Northern Ireland became a part of the United
Kingdom. Doloughan says that although the shamrock
represents Ireland as a whole, the color green is
controversial orange represents Protestant color of
Ulster, the northern county.
"In Ireland, the celebration has many more political
implications than would even occur to people in the
States," Doloughan said. "It is much more a cultural,
religious and political event."
This is the fifth time Doloughan will spend St. Patrick's
Day in the United States, and she is not planning to
do anything special. "I've never really celebrated it here,"
she says. "The Americans celebrate it here more than
the Irish do it's an American invention."
Thompson was born in Belfast, which is in the
northeastern part of Ireland. "St. Patrick's Day is not
celebrated in a big way at home," he says. "We always
got the day off in school, and, as far as I know, it's
a holiday for most people, but I was surprised at how
big the celebration is here. Americans seem to do
everything in a bigger way."
Because some of his students know he is Irish, he says,
they often ask him about his plans for St. Patrick's Day
and are surprised when he tells them he has no plans.
"But l do think St. Patrick's Day in this country is nice
it's fun to see everyone going for it in a big way."
James Simmons, a poet who teaches Drama and Anglo
Irish literature at the New University of Ulster at
Coleraine, is a native of Londonderry, Northern Ireland.
He agrees with Thompson that there is not much public
celebration on St. Patrick's Day in Belfast. "Everyone
may drink an extra beer at the pub, or wear a shamrock
on his lapel."
Simmons says many of the Northern Irish, who are
predominantly Protestant, are ambivalent about the
start of Catholicism in Ireland. "I imagine the Church
is a sort of negative influence on celebration, but I've
never celebrated it in Dublin," he says. "I did drink green
beer once in Philadelphia it was awful!"
Simmons also shares Thompson's opinion about the
American festivities, "it's sort of fun to see all these
excesses I suppose Americans make more of a fuss
over here because there are probably more Irish
Americans in America than Irish in Ireland, and there's
that tendency to be sentimental about the homeland."
Irish-American junior Neil Rourke remembers his family's
sentimental celebrations: a special dinner of corned beef
and cabbage and a green cake, and his aunt would put
green food coloring in the milk. "I always wear a green
shirt, and a couple of buttons, like, 'It's Hard to Be Humble
When You're Irish.' I usually go uptown and drink and
basically have a good time."
Other students adopt the "If you're not Irish, fake
it," attitude, and they approach St. Patrick's Day with
one thought in mind: PARTY.
Senior Jane Terrell admits that she doesn't really know
much about St. Patrick's Day, but she is definitely
planning to go out and celebrate tonight. "I know that
you should wear green and it's a day for the Irish,"
Terrell says. "It's a great time to go out to the bars,
so that's what I'm going to do go out and drink
So, whether you're Irish or just wish you were, a St.
Patrick's Day in America is meant to be a party and
anyone blessed with the luck of the Irish has at least
a chance of someday catching that leprechaun and
finding that pot o' gold.
The Daily Tar HeelThursday, March 17, 19887
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