St. Patrick’s Day| Natural Language Institute

Insights and Experiences


St. Patrick’s Day

By Rita Elena Daniel - 28/mar/2016 #History, Culture, and the Arts

In my ever-present quest to offer cultural experiences to students, I decided it would be a good opportunity to indulge in such fancies through the excuse of a holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. In usual fashion, I decided to introduce students to the idea of what I ended up calling, “Irish Carnival,” through carefully crafted lessons in which students received a more traditional text about the Catholic origins of the holiday, and a much more playful video of contemporary traditions as seen through the (drunken) eyes of New Yorkers in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. In general, students were receptive and curious to learn about this holiday. Why do we celebrate it in the US if it is an Irish holiday? Why do so many people drink beer? What is a leprechaun and why is it sometimes portrayed as evil and sometimes portrayed as innocent?

As usual, questions like these stimulate excellent conversation and opportunity to delve deeper into cultural nuances and idiosyncrasies. I tried to explain to students that as Americans, we have appropriated this Irish tradition because of the influx of migrants from Ireland during the potato famine of the 1900s. “Today, St. Patrick’s Day,” I tried to explain, “is a day when everyone is Irish.” Yes, even here in Brazil, I thought, we all can partake in this holiday and use it to our advantage for conversational English, and so we did! I organized a simple get-together at an Irish pub here in Brasília,  of which there are only two in the city, and despite the fact that moderately few students attended, the event was an overall success in my opinion because those who did come seemed to have a thoroughly decent time! Although some aspects of the tradition were missing—green beer, “Kiss me I’m Irish” shirts, and corned beef and cabbage—students and teachers alike had an opportunity to build relationships through the event and practice their language skills in a memorable setting.

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