St. Patrick’s Day from 1925 to 2023: How we Ought to Celebrate

Stacey Kaliabakos  ’23

Chief Opinions Editor

As a classics major, I love looking at relics of the past to inform my perspectives on modern life. In similar fashion, as an editor of The Spire, and just as someone generally interested in newspapers, I enjoy diving into the archives to see what content newspapers produced in the past. If you were not aware, The Spire was not always called The Spire; rather, it was first founded with the name The Tomahawk in 1925. Looking at the first couple of issues published in the spring of 1925, I decided to see what was happening during this exact week nearly 100 years ago. 

Interestingly enough, this week’s issue is coming out on the same day as the 1925 issue– March 17th, which is, if you were somehow unaware, St. Patrick’s Day. Before coming to college, I did not pay much attention to St. Patrick’s Day, but after being immersed in Irish Catholic culture for several years now, it will be hard to ever forget the importance of this holiday. 

St. Patrick’s Day at Holy Cross is often marked by the annual St. Paddy’s Day “darty” along with an overall weekend of festivities and sometimes downright debauchery. Although the parties and get-togethers offer great opportunities to foster camaraderie among students, it is bittersweet to remember that fun and drinking were not the original intentions of the holiday. 

Saint Patrick is widely thought to be the most recognizable of all of the patron saints of Ireland (even though he was not of Irish descent himself). St. Patrick was born in Great Britain, and was first brought to Ireland as a slave. Eventually he was able to escape from captivity and he subsequently returned home to Great Britain, where he became a cleric. He later declared that  a vision showed that he should go back to Ireland, saying that the people of Ireland told him, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” St. Patrick did indeed return to the land that initially held him captive, bringing Christianity and Christian teachings with him.

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day initially began as a religious feast day held in honor of St. Patrick on the anniversary of his death. Traditionally, Catholics are allowed to break their Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol consumption for the feast, which is why drinking has become so closely linked to the celebration. Now, the feast day has evolved into a more general celebration of not just St. Patrick himself, but also of Irish culture and history. 

In perusing the March 17, 1925 issue of The Tomahawk, I was surprised to see several articles about St. Patrick’s Day. Back then, The Tomahawk (which was only a couple of months old at that point), was just four pages long, so seeing three whole pieces having to do with the feast day or the celebration of Irish culture was astounding. On the second page sits a piece called “St. Patrick the Organizer,” which tells the story of St. Patrick and the history of his feast day, similarly to how I did above. The first page of the issue is adorned with a headline that reads, “Purple Key to Present Sketch at St. Patrick’s Night Affair.” From what I could gather from the article, it seemed that the “Purple Key” club was hosting a school-sponsored St. Patrick’s Day celebration that included a play about the “venerable saint” written solely by students. There was also discussion of a recitation and comedy show by different students, along with a musical performance of Irish songs and Jazz numbers by Tommie Laflin ‘26 (1926!!) and “The Hilltoppers,” which from what I could gather was the name of the orchestra at Holy Cross at the time. There also was an Irish-themed lecture offered during the week at the College called “The Ancient Music and Instruments of Ireland.” It is interesting to see that, in the past, there was an organized celebration of St. Patrick’s Day that was recognized by the school, rather than what we have today in the form of a student-driven day-party. I am sure that the students were able to enjoy one another’s company in these school-sanctioned environments and opportunities while simultaneously celebrating St. Patrick to the fullest.

In closing, I want to wish all of you a happy feast day of St. Patrick and hope that the weekend’s festivities bring you much joy. However, I would be remiss to not ask that you keep the original meaning of St. Patrick’s Day in mind and at heart this weekend. As the authors of The Tomahawk wrote nearly a century ago, “Patrick, in whose actions all the virtues that distinguished the early saints reached their perfection, Patrick, who planted the seeds of the Church in Erin’s sod, St. Patrick the Organizer– do we honor and praise on this his feast day, counting it a gift of Heaven that his allegiance is our own.”

If you are interested in looking at other old versions of The Spire, visit our website https://hcspire.com/ and head to the Archives section.

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