Love of the Irish

What goes through your mind when you see people crowding the streets of the city you call home, indulging themselves in alcohol and partying without a care in the world.

Your first thought might be something in the neighbourhood of a real life Project X occurring, or the city’s hockey team just won its first Stanley Cup in years.

But to find out that the reason why this ongoing celebration is happening because of some religious holiday? You’d be baffled.

That religious holiday is the Feast of Saint Patrick, better known as St. Paddy’s Day.

The holiday commemorates Saint Patrick himself and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. But does this explain the intense partying?

Most college and university students view St. Paddy’s Day as a an excuse to drink morning, noon and night. In Ottawa, students celebrate by hitting Irish pubs, such as the Heart and Crown, or go to house keggers in their neighbourhoods. But what goes on in Waterloo, Ont. takes things to a whole new level.

“St. Patrick’s Day in Waterloo can be described using one word: awesome,” said Taylor Yhap, a third-year psychology student at Wilfrid Laurier University.  “It’s the one day of the year where mass amounts of people gather wearing matching colours and sharing matching visions of Irish pride and just have a jolly old time, a day where nobody is judged for being absolutely outrageous.”

Despite the outrageousness that occurs on the streets of Ezra Avenue, the main gathering spot in Waterloo on St. Paddy’s day, students are able to maintain good behaviour.

“The Waterloo Regional Police play a large and successful role in keeping everything under control,” said Yhap.  “They give the students and people who partake in the celebration trust and freedom while still enforcing the law; and that’s the most important thing.”

It’s a two-way street, though. In order for the police to be forgiving, students at Wilfred Laurier and University of Waterloo must cooperate.

“I think the main point is not how the police are able to control the party, but how the students can control themselves,” said Yhap.

According to Metro News Kitchener, about 7,500 people were piled along a two-block stretch on Ezra Avenue for last year’s celebrations.

“I didn’t even hear of an incident where an officer was yelled at or sworn at,” said Supt. Kevin Chalk, north division commander of Waterloo Regional Police.

In comparison to the riots that occurred in London, Ont. a few years ago during the holiday, very few incidents were actually reported.

Canada’s biggest city doesn’t shy away from the festivities either, but one Ryerson University student hopes to improve upon his St. Paddy’s day experience from last years.

“My St. Paddy’s day last year was pretty disappointing, there wasn’t even music at the party I attended,” said Ryerson journalism student Nick Raponi.  “It was pretty festive, but not having music was a letdown.”

This year Raponi plans on attending the Canadian tour of I’m Shmacked, a controversial video series that documents partying on college and university campuses.

“There’s a possibility my friend might be the opening DJ,” said Raponi.  “So it’s just added incentive for me to go and have a good time.”