74.8 F

Davis, California

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Hail to the Chief

Top O’ the mornin’ to ye, lads and lasses. Happy day before St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday celebrating the lack of snakes in Ireland! That seems like an odd thing to celebrate across the world, let alone in America? Well, it’s also an excuse to drink heavily.

But let’s assume that everyone wants to celebrate this holiday for a different reason: they’re happy that, as a result of St. Patrick’s efforts, the Irish were able to drastically reduce the amount of snake-related fatalities and thus had more citizens available to emigrate to other countries! (We can also thank the potato famine of the 1840s and a number of racist British laws, but for right now let’s stick with St. Patrick because it’s happier.)

The Irish diaspora is estimated at being around 80 million people, while the CIA Factbook places the population of Ireland at just over four million. The United States is home to over 10 times that many people with Irish ancestry; 44 million Irish Americans make it the second largest ethnic group in the country (behind German Americans).

UC Davis students in particular should be appreciative of the great thinkers Ireland has given birth to.

Where would chemistry students be without Robert Boyle? They would have no idea what was going on with gas pressure and volume, that’s for damn sure.

English majors should thank St. Patrick that famous writers James Joyce, James Swift, William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett (to name a few) never got snake-bit. Without them there’d be at least three fewer upper division English classes. They might also have to read books where something pleasant happens.

Political Science and International Relations majors, I haven’t forgotten you! The Irish have been important movers and shakers in international politics, have supplied a great deal of liberators and revolutionaries to various places, South America in particular (lookin’ at you, Bernardo Higgins). Even Che Guevara was part Irish. Maybe someone should design a Che shirt where he’s wearing a green bowler hat.

Fun fact: 23 U.S. presidents have had Irish blood (including President Barack Obama).

Okay, maybe you don’t want to be reminded of school with finals right around the corner. There’ve been a number of Irish musicians (Van Morrison, Enya, U2) and actors (Peter O’Toole, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan) that have made an impression.

The Irish have made contributions all over the place; the Fighting 69th, composed almost entirely of Irish Americans, has been an active regiment within the U.S. Army since the Revolutionary War.

So how should one celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

First of all be sure to wear green. This is, ostensibly, to avoid getting pinched. Really though, the only people who actually pinch people who don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day are in elementary school. So really, you’re wearing green to avoid getting shit from people your age who are mature enough not to pinch you but will still point it out.

Second, have some traditional Irish fare for the day. The easiest way to do this will be to find a restaurant that will be undoubtedly serving some kind of corned beef dish as their daily special. From my own research, I’ve tentatively formed the opinion that you could also just take your favorite dish and add a bunch of potatoes to it and it’s probably served in Ireland (for extra authenticity, convert your recipe measurements to metric!).

Third, it’s important to have fun. In Ireland, St Patrick’s Day means going to a pub and drinking a Guinness while watching horse races and then going out to dinner. In New York or Boston, you’ll end up watching the big parade.

In Davis, it’s up to you (just gonna toss this out there: most of the bars will be serving green beer), but you should be optimistic and convince yourself it will be a good day. If the Irish could overcome centuries of discrimination, a huge famine, more discrimination in other countries, religious infighting and the U.K.’s climate, you can have a great Tuesday in their honor.

Éirinn go Brách!


RICHARD PROCTER might be an English name, but you can talk to him about why he identifies with his Irish ancestors at rhprocter@ucdavis.edu.



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