March 17 is a time-honoured holiday for the Irish, people who pretend they’re Irish and every university student alike. It’s celebrated by waking up at noon, chugging a 530-milliliter bottle of Gatorade and pondering the origins of the various empty liquor bottles scattered about your living room floor.

This year, Laurier Brantford students were surprised to find a St.Patrick’s-Day-themed message from our Dean, Dr. Bruce Arai. The email, which I also hope becomes an annual tradition, stated: “We have had reports that some classes are allegedly being cancelled because of St Patrick’s Day today. This is a reminder that St. Patrick’s Day is not a University holiday, classes are expected to run, and students are expected to attend and be sober.”

While I find being told not to show up to class wasted slightly patronizing, Dr. Arai did have a point. St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a sanctioned holiday and university professors certainly shouldn’t be observing it. That got us at the Sputnik wondering, “Just what the hell is St. Patrick’s Day and why does it matter so much to us university students?”

St. Patrick, an actual historical figure, was responsible for spreading Catholicism in Ireland during the 5th century. Legend has it that St. Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate the holy trinity to potential Pagan converts. It was made an official Catholic holiday in the 17th century and, in a mere 400 years, it became a prominently secular celebration of Irish culture and dark beer. In fact, Guinness, the Irish beer synonymous with the holiday, makes between 25-35 per cent of its annual U.S. sales during its St. Patty’s Day promotions.

Still, the average university student doesn’t know or care about the history of St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s just a day devoted to drinking and singing along to the song “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers, a Scottish band constantly mistaken for Irish.

So, while our university shouldn’t officially recognize it as a holiday, professors should – and often do — recognize that St. Patrick’s Day is a special day for students by scheduling midterms and guest speakers for dates other than March 17th. Even if St. Patrick’s Day’s original meaning has been lost to history, it’s still a time to celebrate. After all, it’s the only holiday with religious origins where people drink excessively because they’re having fun amongst friends and not as a coping mechanism.

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