Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

Kelly Byer

WATCH a slideshow of Ireland.

On March 17, a little after 8 a.m., I woke up and got ready to the tunes of “The Blood of Cuchulainn” and “Paddy’s Revenge.” At about 10 a.m., I was leaving Coleraine on a train to Belfast.

Although I wore a light green sweatshirt, fewer people than I expected were wearing green. But as the train made its way toward the capital of Northern Ireland, the amount of emerald-color clothing increased, and during the festivities, it was difficult to distinguish a tourist from someone who just enjoyed wearing shamrock antennas and festive hats.

By noon, I was standing along the street, peering over people to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade that was marching through the city. Full of colorful characters, it was a pleasant parade, but a bit smaller than I thought it would be.

After the crowd dispersed, so did my friends and I. Then I donned my giant shamrock-shaped glasses as we celebrated the holiday by hitting some pubs.

But the day wasn’t completely worry-free. With two Irish Republican Army attacks the week before, one on an army barracks and the other attack on a policeman, there were concerns about the possibility of violence on St. Patrick’s Day.

Luckily, there was nothing more than some unrelated riots, but evidence of underlying tension was visible on the trip to Belfast. Just before a train stop in Ballymoney, graffiti could be seen on a pipeline running beside the tracks, the white block letters spelling out phrases like “Brits out” or “No Pope here.”

So, even though St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, I think the sentiments behind the celebration deserve another look. Believe it or not, there is more to the holiday than leprechaun hats and green beer.

At a recent get-together for international students, a man stood up and told of St. Patrick. He told the story you may already know about the patron saint of Ireland and how St. Patrick is celebrated for bringing Christianity to the island.

The Shamrock, a common weed that can be found almost everywhere, was his way of illustrating the Trinity. It shows how three separate things could all be part of one whole.

The speaker commented on the recent violence and added that Northern Ireland isn’t alone when it comes to having some problems, as there are many unresolved issues all across the globe.

“If Saint Patrick were here today, I think he’d tell us to take another look at the shamrock,” he said.

All religious connotations aside, the idea of separate entities coming together to make one could be applied to almost any aspect of life. The earth is comprised of continents, continents of countries, countries of states or provinces . you get the idea.

Think of how many ways we could separate and divide ourselves. Now, how many unite us?

I think now is as good a time as any to look at those common factors a little closer. If I’ve gained anything from my time here in Ireland, it’s a better understanding of how much more there is beyond our borders.

There’s a whole world out there we seldom hear of, or care to learn about because we’re wrapped up in our own lives. Yet, there are opportunities to branch out. There are international students at Kent State and courses that offer a more global perspective.

Seek them out and you might find the differences are merely interesting opportunities to learn something new while getting to know another culture, not unlike our own, or a human being, not unlike yourself.

Kelly Byer is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].