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NerdScholar Favorites: St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

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As the old Irish saying goes, “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.” But whether your ancestors hail from Ireland or elsewhere, we might as well all be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Who doesn’t love a parade, green outfits, and a little bit of Irish cheer?

In honor of Saint Patrick and his day of revelry, NerdScholar brings you some of our favorite college St. Patty’s day traditions, both old and new.


Missouri University of Science & Technology

Known more informally as the School of Mines, this college has no shortage of Saint Patrick’s Day traditions. Dating as far back as 1908, the Miners commemorate the patron saint of engineers with a string of festivities scattered throughout the month of March. The student organization, St. Pat’s board, hosts the annual events that have affectionately become known as “The Best Ever.” Now in its 106th year, the group kicked off the month of March with a “campus-wide snake invasion, where students clubbed plastic snakes with large, decorative sticks called shillelaghs,” says Peter Ehrhard, communications specialist at Missouri S&T. Last week, student groups also participated in the follies and gonzo games that led up to the arrival of St. Pat and his court on March 13th. Finally, the university’s students, staff, and faculty, took over their town of Rolla, Missouri, for the annual St. Pat’s parade on Saturday.

Myth: Saint Patrick was Irish.

Fact: He was born in either Scotland, England, or Wales—depending on interpretation. He first set foot in Ireland when he was brought over as a young slave.


University of St. Thomas

At a college rooted in Irish faith and tradition—their founder was the Irish-born bishop John Ireland—the University of St. Thomas is proud to celebrate its heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. The Center for Irish Studies and the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center host their annual St. Patrick’s Day Open House on the festive March 17th holiday. The event pays homage to the school’s Celtic Collection, “one of the jewels on campus,” says Jim Rogers, the director of the Center for Irish Studies. The collection was started in 1917 and now boasts an impressive 9,200 new and rare Irish books. It is considered one of the best collections of Celtic material in North America. Rogers adds, “I hope folks stop by to see a few of these items, to hear some Irish poems—including ones in Irish Gaelic—and yes, to have a shamrock cookie!”

Myth: St. Patrick’s Day festivities began as an Irish tradition.

Fact: March 17th was a somber day that most people spent at church. The first cheerful celebration of St. Patrick’s Day was in 1771 at the New York City parade.


Eureka College

Though not a campus tradition per se, the Eureka College alumni association is definitely celebrating this St. Patrick’s day to the fullest—by hosting 15 alumni and friends on a 10-day trip through Ireland. As part of a “learning on location” experience, Shellie Schwanke, director of Alumni Relations and host of the trip, says the group is visiting a number of famous sights, including the Blarney Castle, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, Limerick, the Cliffs of Moher, and Dublin. “This is the first international trip that has been offered by the alumni office,” Schwanke says. The group arrived in Ireland on March 9th. We wish them safe travels throughout the last days of their St. Patrick’s week trip, which will end on March 18th.

Myth: Saint Patrick rid Ireland of all the snakes.

Fact: Historians say there probably never were snakes on the Emerald Isle due to its isolation and frigid temperatures.


Marymount University

This is Marymount University’s sixth year participating in the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, the march is the oldest Irish tradition in the country and has proudly marched the streets of Manhattan for—wait for it—253 years. Alumni, friends, and faculty represent Marymount through the streets of Manhattan, proudly sporting their banner and festive apparel in honor of St. Patrick and Irish heritage. The school is also excited to march near the front of the lineup this year.

Myth: Saint Patrick was the first to bring Christianity to Ireland.

Fact: In reality, many had already adopted the religion before Saint Pat’s arrival.


University of Missouri at Columbia

Missouri has celebrated their timeless tradition of Engineer’s Week dating all the way back to St. Patrick’s day in 1903. They were the first school among the Missouri universities to adopt the tradition, and more importantly, were the first to deem Saint Patrick an engineer. The tradition has grown since its early days, but still includes the Missouri Engineer’s Song, St. Patrick’s Ball, and the knighting ceremony. Of the most highly esteemed annual traditions is the St. Pat’s Court, which comprises five queen candidates and five king candidates. These individuals partake in the daily Engineer’s Week events, consisting of Irish-themed games, races, and scavenger hunts. At the week’s end, one candidate is crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty and another the King of Valor and Wit. This year’s St. Pat’s Court will be the 109th group of students to receive this spirited honor.

Myth: Corned beef is the classic Irish holiday meal.

Fact: Actually, the traditional Irish dish is a type of bacon, similar to ham. Corned beef is an American-Irish St. Patrick’s Day dish.  


Myths and facts courtesy of The History Channel. 

Shamrocks image courtesy of Shutterstock.