The true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day


Senior Sarah O’Shea has done Irish dancing competitively from a young age.

For many people, March 17 is a day designated for parties with a green theme, to gather as many friends as possible and eat corned beef and cabbage. But few understand the holiday’s true purpose and are, in fact, celebrating this holiday wrong.

We have all likely heard of the parade in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe you even watch it on the television or you dress up head to toe in green and watch the festivities in person. Senior Sarah O’Shea, who is of Irish descent, participates in the actual parade with her traditional Irish dance team.

“I have attended and been in several St. Patrick’s Day parades for almost a decade. It is one of my favorite holidays because we do a lot of shows all over the Chicago area,” O’Shea said.

Parades are obviously a big and exciting part of the holiday, but the true Irish know the secrets to correctly celebrating “St. Patty’s Day,” as some Americans tend to refer to it. A dual citizen of the United States and Ireland, St. Charles resident Krysia Tscherewik moved from Dublin when she was 20 years old and often witnesses several common misperceptions.

“[The saint’s] name is Paddy, and in America we get it mixed up with Patty, which is a girl’s name, while Paddy is a boy’s name,” Tscherewik said.

This is just one of the frequent misunderstandings about the holiday that Tscherewik explained. Here, in our small suburban towns, we chow down on corned beef and make dyed-green drinks with little knowledge of others’ more traditional ways of celebrating this day.

“We don’t eat corned beef. We eat ham, mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ve never had corned beef until I came here,” Tscherewik said.

So why do we even celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the first place? In Ireland, where the holiday originated, people gather in churches to worship Saint Patrick for different reasons than we typically create here.

“St. Patrick is a saint, originally from Wales in Great Britain. He is famous for chasing the snakes out of Ireland, so we don’t have snakes in Ireland…and bringing Christianity to Ireland,” Tscherewik said.

The fact that he was fearsome enough to cause all the snakes to leave helped him draw in a lot of love and interest, leading to the creation of new traditions for generations of families to honor. While there might not be many people locally who understand the true story behind St. Patrick’s Day, there are some who are participating in the fun more traditionally. Former Kaneland student Katrina McNew, also of Irish descent, has her own way to celebrate the holiday.

“A lot of people think St. Patrick’s Day is just about [drinking]. While that’s a big part for some, a lot more is just about family and culture and remembering where you came from,” McNew said.

So, to appropriately celebrate a true St. Patrick’s Day this upcoming March 17, grab your green clothes and gather with loved ones to celebrate with family. Maybe even eat a traditional Irish meal and watch some Irish dancing to ring in the anniversary of Ireland becoming “snake-free.”