Unofficial: A permanent staple at the University
March 6, 2014
’Twas the night before Unofficial and all through the land, not a student was partying, not even with wrist bands. The Unofficial shirts were washed by the students with care, as they waited patiently for the day to finally arrive there. The students slept quietly, all snug in their beds, while visions of green shamrocks danced in their heads.
The time has finally arrived; it is officially the week of Unofficial. Students who have been looking forward to this day all year — your time has finally come. On Friday, celebrations will commence, green will override the campus and it will feel just like St. Patrick’s Day, except better.
Unofficial began as a day to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because the University’s spring break was over the official holiday. So, the bars and students decided that there should be a day completely devoted to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and just like that, Unofficial was born.
Since that day, Unofficial has taken on a life of its own, and, while we still wear green to pay tribute to the holiday’s origins, it has become a holiday distinct from St. Patrick’s Day.
Unofficial is a student holiday that separates our student body from that of other schools. St. Louis has Mardi Gras, Indiana has Little 500, Michigan has nothing and our student body has Unofficial. The popularity of the holiday has grown over the years, and students from other schools flock to the University to partake in the celebrations.
The bars claim that they “organize” the student holiday, because they pick the Friday in March it is celebrated on, but the student body drives the celebration onward year after year. And there is a simple reason why the University has not been able to shut it down: Unofficial embodies the best parts of being a college student — freedom, happiness and spontaneity.
This year, the Mayor of Champaign has ordered strict rules on when the bars can begin serving alcoholic beverages. In an attempt to slow down the festivities, the order forbids bars from serving alcohol between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. And while this may seem like a momentous step in deterring students, the Mayor may have failed to recognize that the bars already only allow students 21 and over that weekend. As a result, few students actually attend the bars and instead, frequent houses and apartments to celebrate the holiday.
To the University and the city of Champaign’s dismay, there is nothing they can do to prevent students from celebrating Unofficial because it is a celebration embedded in our University culture. Students are eager to celebrate because there are few times one will be able to say they woke up in the wee hours of the morning to celebrate a holiday completely unique to our University.
Since the bar entrance age on campus becomes 21 on Unofficial, many students rely on parties hosted in houses or apartments to celebrate the momentous holiday. The festivities begin promptly in the early hours of the morning — earlier than anyone would consider waking up for class.
I’m talking 6 a.m.
Unofficial seems to unnerve the University because students traditionally skip their Friday classes to partake in the all-day celebrations. Professors disregard the holiday as a day for troublemakers, but Unofficial is all in good fun. Even if the bars were to shut down completely on that day — students would still celebrate the holiday because it has become a staple at the University.
On the official day, Kelly green invades the streets of Champaign as students don their best Unofficial gear that includes beads, sunglasses, hats, sweatshirts and scarves.
If you’re experienced in celebrating Unofficial, you know that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and is to be taken very seriously. I would suggest beginning the day with green eggs and ham so you can literally eat, sleep and breathe the complete Unofficial experience.
Come Thursday evening, the streets of Champaign will be empty as students set their alarms and go to their beds early so that they can rise bright and early for the long day of festivities.
Be sure to wear your green, drink lots of water and be safe on the holiday that is infinitely better than St. Patrick’s Day. If you see someone getting in trouble, you can bet that they probably don’t go to the University of Illinois and can’t handle Unofficial.
Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]