An Irish heritage

William Schertz

Americans have taken one of Ireland’s holidays and made it their own, with green rivers, eggs and beer

It must be the luck of the Irish.

Their culture has become somewhat of a commodity in the United States in recent years, with Irish themed apparel, Celtic jewelry and folk drinking songs weaving their way into pop culture.

Of course, celebration of Irish heritage peaks on St. Patrick’s Day, the day that celebrates the missionary who is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity.

On March 17, many Kent State students will make their way to bars to drink green beer and eat green eggs and ham.

But many of the students who will celebrate the holiday with a pint of Guinness and a shamrock-laden graphic T-shirt have probably never seen Ireland, and may not even be remotely Irish.

“They call them plastic patties,” said Ron Davis, graduate student and American Literature instructor. “They’re Yankees that pretend to be Irish.”

Davis said he is the third generation of Irish Americans in his family, but still estimates himself to be 50 percent Irish. Though he never lived in Ireland, he is very interested in his family’s heritage.

“All the people who are five, six, three percent Irish only care about this for a day, then it’s ‘Let’s forget about our heritage after the holiday,'” Davis said. “For me, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t so much about being Irish. It’s more of a way to get people involved in learning about their heritage.”

Freshman music major John Byerly may not be of Irish descent, but he is experienced in the culture, having spent the last 10 summers living with his family in the town of Dunquin in southeast Ireland.

“The community we live in is laid back and it’s so friendly,” Byerly said. “Even police will actually wave at you and say hello.”

Byerly said his family visited the country when he was young and liked it so much they bought a house there.

Byerly said the United States has “Americanized” the holiday by adding traditions that are often laughed at in Ireland.

“They don’t put green dye in their beer like we do over here,” he said. “They think that’s kind of a joke.”

In Ireland, most of the day is centered on religious activities, though people still find time to enjoy themselves through games of Gaelic football, spending time with family and relaxing. Schools and most businesses are closed with the obvious exception of a few pubs.

“In Ireland, they stay true to the roots of the actual holiday, but it’s still a party there,” Byerly said. “For them though, it’s less of a reason just to get drunk and more of a time to do whatever.”

Interesting St. Patty’s Day Facts

  • The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States was in Boston in 1737.
  • Until 1995, Dublin pubs were all closed on Saint Patrick’s Day.
  • Saint Patrick was known to curse.
  • Chicago has celebrated the holiday by dyeing the Chicago River green since 1962.
  • One popular legend is that Saint Patrick rid Ireland of snakes by ringing a bell from the top of a mountain near Westport.
  • Saint Patrick used some pagan elements in Christianity to make the religion more appealing to new converts.
  • The significance of the shamrock is that Saint Patrick used the plant to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity.
  • Green did not become the official color of Ireland until the 19th century and was once looked down upon by Irish people as a color of fairies and leprechauns.

Sources:,, and

Contact features reporter William Schertz at [email protected].