The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Everyone’s Irish on March 17


    The streets were packed with thousands of people as far as the eye could see as they watched the parade stroll through the entire city of Dublin. Orange, green and white, the colors of the Irish flag, cloaked the city, while people dressed in leprechaun costumes, painted shamrocks on their faces and raced to the packed pubs as they chanted “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”

    St. Patrick’s Day is a time associated with green paper shamrocks, corned beef and cabbage and leprechauns, but it is also a time for the Irish to remember their heritage. But what is the history of St. Patrick’s Day, how is it celebrated in Ireland and how is it celebrated in Eau Claire?

    History of St. Patrick’s Day

    Every year on March 17, people dress in green and talk about shamrocks and leprechauns.

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    “St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is more akin to Thanksgiving in the United States,” Brian O’Conchubhair, professor at the University of Notre Dame said. It is a public holiday, he said, and every body has the day off from work to spend with family and friends. Most people travel home on this holiday,
    he said.

    The day is spent watching hurling and Gaelic football finals on television and going to a parade, he said. Each city in Ireland has its own parade, varying in size, Dublin having the largest. Every year Dublin’s parade has a different theme, while the smaller cities have local organizations parade through the town.

    Jim Rogers, managing director for the Center for Irish Studies, said up until 40 years ago, no parades took place in Ireland, and it was much more of a religious observance. Today in the United States, more than 100 parades take place, Rogers said.

    “The rise for things Irish in the U.S. is an interesting phenomenon,” he said.

    People also congregate in the pubs and bars, O’Conchubhair said, but the alcohol isn’t as prominent as in the United States. He said drinking seems to be more of an American occurrence.

    Up until the 1940s through the ’60s, pubs would close for the public holiday, he said.
    “It was only when they got tourists coming to Ireland to celebrate was when the pubs began to open again,” he added.

    The signature symbol of St. Patrick’s Day is the shamrock because the three leaves represent the Catholic ideology of the Blessed Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, O’Conchubhair said.
    Leprechauns are also a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and are not considered lucky, Rogers said.

    “In Irish folklore, leprechauns are relatively malicious little creatures,” Rogers said, adding that they would attach themselves to people and create deviltry and mischief.

    The color green was a modest symbol of Irish identity until the 1880s, Rogers said, but now green has a life of its own.

    “I personally feel that St. Patrick’s Day has a lot to do with the fact that it comes at the end of winter,” Rogers said. Green is the color of spring and the shamrock.

    Ireland paints the town ‘green’

    Students who studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland had the opportunity to see the St. Patrick’s Day celebration firsthand.
    “Everyone really wanted to demonstrate that it’s awesome to be Irish, and it’s one of the best times of the year to be it,” junior Chelsea Lamb-Vosen said.

    “It’s a unifying experience; everyone is drinking and in great spirits and has a great sense of pride.”

    Lamb-Vosen studied abroad spring 2005 and took part in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

    She said Dublin was packed wall to wall with thousands of people to watch an elaborate parade.

    Senior Nicole Mifek, who also studied abroad in Limerick, said the parade was an example of celebrating the pride of Ireland and its culture. She said different bands, children’s groups, Irish dances and Irish music were included in the parade.

    Senior Serena Davis was in Limerick during the festivities and said the parade there was more sports-oriented.

    Lamb-Vosen said with spring break coming up, St. Patrick’s Day will be a good time. She said she has a lot of apparel from Ireland that she will wear to the bars with her friends.

    Lamb-Vosen said Irish heritage has always been extremely strong in her family.
    “I love St. Patrick’s Day; it’s my favorite time of year,” she said.

    Junior Nicole Koktavy also studied in Limerick and said she saw people decked out in funky hats, the colors of the flag, green clothes, face paintings and shamrock antenna headbands.

    After the parade, she said most people headed to the pubs, and people couldn’t get into a bar if they were not the first ones there.

    “It was a huge celebration; everyone, I think, was really carefree, and they just go all out for it,” Koktazy said. “It was a block party for the whole city.”
    Koktazy does not have any Irish heritage but said she thought it would be an interesting place to go.

    “Words can’t describe how great it was,” she said. “I’m Irish at heart now, and that’s why I’m going out on Friday.”

    Green in Eau Claire

    In honor of the holiday, many of the local bars and pubs will have specials.

    “It’s our busiest day of the year,” Dave Ottosen, owner of Wigwam Tavern, 314 E. Madison St., said. There will be corn beef, cabbage and red potatoes all day long and also drink specials.

    Eau Claire alumnus Nick Dudycha, who works at Dooleys Pub, said the pub is going to have a party. They are having live music and Irish food and drink specials, he said. The band Freeborn County will be playing.

    “This is our first year open on St. Patrick’s Day, so it’s kind of a learning experience; we’re prepared for anything,” he said.

    A few events take place in Eau Claire in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, one of which is Shamrock Shuffle, a fundraiser for the national youth sports program.

    It is a volunteer project through University Recreation & Sport Facilities.

    “When we started organizing this five years ago, everyone had spring fever,” Vicki Funne Reed, associate director of University Recreation & Sport Facilities said.

    People can participate outdoors, and it seems to be a theme carried through with St. Patrick’s Day each year, she said. Shamrock Shuffle took place Sunday and had a tremendous turnout of students, Funne Reed said. Almost 400 participants, including students, faculty, staff and community members showed up. A large part of that was students, she said.

    The Blugolds Gone Wild Beach Party kicks off today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the campus mall. There will be judging for the best St. Patrick’s costume at noon.

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    Everyone’s Irish on March 17