Deborah Rotman | Mar. 10, 2010 | Notre Dame Magazine
Each year on March 17 people across the United States celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and their Irishness or faux Irishness, as the case may be. It may come as a surprise, however, that at Notre Dame, the home of the Fighting Irish, the University’s founder, Father Edward Sorin, CSC, actually banned observance of the holiday.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional feast day in Ireland, the holiday as we know it is a uniquely Irish-American phenomenon. In the 19th century, however, March 17 raised some interesting tensions for Irish immigrants. Native-born U.S. residents were already suspicious of Irish Catholics, who were viewed as having allegiance to a foreign power — the pope. Celebrations of Irishness were viewed as further evidence that the Irish were not American and were a potential threat. It was to combat this perception that Father Sorin, who famously sponsored Fourth of July celebrations for the South Bend community to prove American loyalty, forbade the observance of St. Patrick’s Day.