Andrea is one of our excellent Alumni Ambassadors and, since she studied in Limerick, our resident Ireland expert. What’s St. Patrick’s Day really about? And what do the Irish think about it? Read on:
Walking into the grocery store last week I was bombarded with cardboard leprechauns advertising St. Patrick’s Day candy. Sighing, I picked up a bag of chocolate shamrocks and continued my shopping for the week. After coming back from my semester in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has mainly served as a reminder of how incredible my experience in Ireland was. The American interpretation of this Irish holiday brings me back to one memory in particular–my Irish class.
Learning Irish, the language and some Irish mythology, at the University of Limerick, was a classroom experience unlike any other I ever had. For one thing, I had never been in a room with so many foreigners; there were students from Norway, France, Germany, America, and other countries throughout the world. It was the one class I took abroad that did not have any natives in it-unless you count Billy, the professor.
Billy, fluent in Irish, had extensive knowledge of Irish mythology and taught everything from Cú Chulainn to druids (Irish mythological figures which filled pages of my notebook that semester). In the midst of one class period, Billy diverted from the lecture of burial mounds and instead, discussed how incorrectly Americans have “Americanized” Irish mythology and that there is no greater display than an American St. Patty’s Day. His eyes rolled as he explained that leprechauns are not the happy, short, bearded Irish creatures America (namely Disney) has made them to be, but are rather evil fairies that terrorize in Irish legends.
As I stared down at the green bag of peanut-butter cups in my cart I could only imagine what Billy would say about the package’s branding. After learning “the truth” about St. Patty’s day relics, it felt a little like learning “the truth” about Santa or the Tooth Fairy. Christmas and the loss of baby teeth were not quite the same, but I still looked forward to them just as I look forward to dressing up from head to toe in green this March. Knowing “the truth” about St. Patty’s Day hasn’t made it any less special, it simply brings me back to the times I had in Ireland as memories of my Irish class drift through my mind.