Americans tend to disregard cultural appropriation during popular holidays

Illustration provided by Collegian staff

With St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, so too are the common traditions of using these occasions as an excuse for drinking, pinching people who don’t wear green and the commercialization and appropriation of Mexican and Irish cultural holidays.

Whenever either holiday occurs, the first thing Americans think of is planning a night out to get drunk and party.

In addition to disregarding the historical and cultural significance of these holidays, there is also an implicit disrespect of the cultures to which these holidays belong when individuals assign their own interpretation and meaning to these celebrations.

Recognizing that these holidays all started in other countries, the true reason they have traveled across countries to become something commercialized and misrepresented should be noted.

Like the dark past associated with the birth and development of America, our society has likewise selectively adopted the holidays of other cultures and manipulated them to increase their marketability and packaged them as forms of entertainment while ignoring the culture to which they belong.

It is no surprise, given the frequency of this occurrence, how easily these cultural holidays have found their way into the American schema while those cultures to whom they belong are quietly forgotten, along with the holidays’ original meaning.

St. Patrick’s Day is both a cultural and religious holiday that recognizes the patron saint of Ireland, who is remembered most for bringing Christianity to the country. Focusing this day on the Irish culture and what Saint Patrick represents to the Irish people should be the foremost reasons for the celebration.

However, the celebration of Irish culture is often associated with going to an Irish bar while wearing the color green and seeing how many beers an individual can consume in one evening. This is a wildly derogatory and culturally insensitive interpretation of a holiday with true national and religious significance.

By picking and choosing particular aspects of a cultural holiday purely for their entertainment value, the increase in its marketability clearly illustrates how easy it is to forget how inherently disrespectful it is to override the meaning of what someone else’s history and culture mean.

Cinco de Mayo is another highly commercialized holiday which people often ignore the culture in which it was founded in. Like the festivities that occur on St. Patrick’s Day, many Americans similarly use this holiday as a way to simply celebrate what it’s like to enjoy some Mexican food and alcoholic drinks for a single night.

Forgetting any relation to the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, Americans can be seen again easily slipping past the historical and cultural contexts surrounding why this is a celebrated holiday. Jumping straight to their own intentions of having a good time, Americans look towards this Mexican holiday as another form of entertainment.

Often linking Cinco de Mayo to the equivalent of Mexico’s Independence Day, the celebration can be seen as skewed far from what the holiday is intended to signify.

In any battle, regardless of the country, there are lives that were lost for the greater good of one’s nation. Those are the individuals who should be remembered and celebrated, rather than reducing a culturally significant event to a ridiculous and floozy game of seeing how many margaritas and tortilla chips someone can consume at a Mexican restaurant.

For both holidays, the Irish and Mexican cultures and people deserve to be credited for more than how appealing their ethnic food and alcoholic drinks are. It’s not acceptable for Americans to indulge in one fun night of excitement and foreign culture while quickly forgetting the implications and historical importance behind these holidays the very next day.

Readers of The Collegian should consider that St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo represent a celebration of the rich history and culture of the people to whom these holidays are dedicated to. They are not a day for senseless drinking and a fun night out as everyone continues to remain ignorant to the true reason for the season.

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