St. Patrick’s Day: Cultural Appropriation?


by Abbie Millman, Editor-in-Chief

Nowadays people can be so easily swayed to see anything as offensive; from Mr. Potato head to Dr. Suess, moreover with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, we’re once again rounding the ever-lasting topic of holidays. Hand in hand with, you guessed it, cultural appropriation.

What is cultural appropriation? Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity, which has been especially controversial when dominant cultures adopt an element or elements of minority cultures.

That’s right, what children grew up with knowing as the only holiday of the year where they get to hunt for leprechauns and four leaf clovers during recess, while dressed in green from head to toe, is now painted as the ethnic crime of cultural appropriation. 

Let’s get one thing straight, St. Patrick’s Day roots from the death of Saint Patrick, a British man who was kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland. Having broken free from slavery, the man returned to Ireland, as he claimed he had been called to spread God’s word. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he converted the Irish to Christianity and baptized over 12,000 people (including the king and his six sons) in a single day.

In comparison to a multitude of other widely celebrated holidays that are rooted in religion, how much of a difference really is there? 

Sure, St. Patrick’s Day originated with the commemoration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and flourished into a celebration filled with the color green, alcohol, and Irish culture. Albeit, it would be far too easy to make that claim with every holiday, specifically those rooted in culture and religion.

Nico Aguilar, a university student in California, who also happens to have Irish heritage said, “Nope! Not cultural appropriation, it celebrates a long history of hardworking honest people.”

Like St. Patrick’s Day, there are plenty of people that celebrate Christmas for its original purpose, the birth of Jesus Christ. There are also people that celebrate in their own “unconventional” way.  Perhaps that be heading to a St. Patrick’s Day themed college party, or recreating the infamous “Jingle Bell Rock” scene from “Mean Girls”.

Brayden Aulicino, a junior at Palo Verde High School said, “No, it’s not cultural appropriation. It’s literally just about leprechauns, four leaf clovers, and drinking; it’s just fun.”

If anything, a whimsical leprechaun would sound slightly more authentic to a folk-telling heritage than an egg and chocolate-laying bunny would when associated with The Bible.

Still lingering, is that question of if the current take on the holiday paints minorities in an unfair light. Where is the line drawn between offending a minority group and providing recognition or awareness to their culture? Perhaps should I say, the distinction between cultural appropriation and appreciation. 

Regardless of the large amounts of culture-blind partying, there is no denying that the holiday also places a spotlight on the Irish culture that many families do celebrate. In addition, there are many who are unfamiliar with the culture and take the time to learn about it.

Palo Verde Sophomore, Ethan Judd, said, “Irish people are white, and by definition cannot experience racism, so no, St. Patrick’s day is not structured around cultural appropriation.”

Ultimately, it’s just one day, and you can choose to celebrate it however you want. Your neighbor heading over to a pub with a few buddies likely won’t impact how enjoyable your family St. Patrick’s Day celebration is unless you let it. It could be a great experience to spend one year indulging yourself in authentic Irish culture, but sitting at home alone all decked out in green while eating a bowl of Lucky Charms may be just as enjoyable, however tacky or meaningless it is.