In the “Windy City,” they dye the Chicago River green. In New Orleans, parades line the streets similar to those in Mardi Gras. And in Tallahassee and many other cities, it’s a weekend of endless partying.
But to some black students, March 17 is just another day on “The Hill.” They say Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t a holiday they look forward to celebrating.
“This holiday has no significance to me being black, and honestly I don’t think black people really know what Saint Patrick’s Day is about,” said Erika Carter, a 23-year-old chemistry student from Fort Lauderdale. “I don’t think it’s a part of me or my heritage.”
Carter said “bottom line,” she’s just not interested.
She is one of a large number of blacks in this country who say although Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in our American culture, it really isn’t a holiday for black people.
The holiday is believed to be the day Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, died.
March 17 serves as the Christian missionary’s feast day.
Legends credit Saint Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity. He supposedly used a three-leaf clover to highlight the “three divine persons in one God.”
David Jackson, a FAMU professor of history, said he is not Irish and has not taken the time to research the holiday’s history.
“I don’t know anything about Saint Patrick’s Day because I’ve never studied it,” said Jackson, chairman of the African-American Studies department. “However, I can ask the same question,” Jackson said. “Why don’t white people go out of their way to celebrate Black History Month?”
Despite what some FAMU students may think about Saint Patrick’s Day, many Florida State University students feel different about the holiday.
Hundreds of students gather for weekend-long celebrations at local hangout spots such as The Irish Pub and other clubs on Tennessee Street.
But similar to other traditions, the original meaning of this holiday has been rephrased, and people may sometimes forget what they’re really celebrating.
“I party all day long,” said Nicole Patton, a 19-year-old sophomore merchandising student from Orlando. “If you go get banded early in the morning, you can get into all of the clubs on the strip for a cheaper price later that night.”
“The Strip” is a section of Tennessee Street adjacent to FSU that police block off for the weekend of events.
“I think that Saint Patrick’s Day has become so huge because being Irish has become so popular,” Patton said.
About four million U.S. residents claim to have Irish ancestry, according to the United States Census Bureau.
“I’m Irish all the way (with) red hair, freckles and pale skin,” Patton said.
She said regardless of ancestry, “at FSU everybody celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a drinking holiday, who wouldn’t want to do that?”
There are some students at FAMU who also enjoy hanging out and partying at the Tallahassee festivities.
Cornell Steward, a 25-year-old senior pharmacy student from Miami, said he doesn’t know the holiday’s purpose, but he follows his roommate to join in the fun.
“White, black, it doesn’t matter to me,” Steward said. “My roommate is white and every year around this time, I get so excited about St. Patty’s Day.”