There are a number of traditions associated with St. Patrick’s Day. People are expected to wear green, adorn themselves with shamrocks, and enjoy some green beer (or at the very least, corned beef) even if they aren’t Irish. Yes, the words “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” are usually tossed around on March 17th every year as well. Yet very few people know much about the holiday’s background. Here are 10 interesting facts about St. Patrick and his holiday.
1) St. Patrick wasn’t Irish at all.
St. Patrick’s Day is known for being an Irish holiday. However, St. Patrick himself wasn’t Irish. According to genealogists, his ancestors were actually Roman. He was born in modern-day England back in the 4th century. With that said, St. Patrick was a bishop in Ireland and is credited with bringing Christianity to that country. This is why he’s associated so heavily with it.
2) Everyone wears green, but St. Patrick is actually associated with the color blue.
The real color that represents St. Patrick is blue. The exact shade of blue depends on whether you’re Irish or British. In Britain, the Order of St. Patrick has been traditionally associated with light blue. The ribbons used for this order are this color. In Ireland, things are a bit different. They use a dark blue to represent St. Patrick. The color green didn’t come into play until the late 1700s when the Irish independence movement began using it to differentiate themselves. Green is now the national color of Ireland.
3) Corned beef and cabbage is the traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.
Believe it or not, corned beef doesn’t actually contain yellow corn. Instead, this focal point of St. Patrick’s Day is cured with large rocks of salt, known as corns. The rest of the meal consists of organic cabbage, carrots, turnips, and potatoes.
4) The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. took place in 1762.
March 17, 1762, was the date of the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States. On this day, notably before the Revolutionary War and the actual founding of this country, hundreds of Irish soldiers paraded through the streets of New York City. At the time, those Irish soldiers were a part of the English military. Boston claims that they’re the first – with their parade taking place in the 1630s, although this hasn’t been completely substantiated.
5) The claim that St. Patrick actually banished all of the snakes from Ireland isn’t exactly true.
As the tale goes, St. Patrick was spending some time on a hill in Ireland during his 40-day fast when a bunch of snakes attacked him. He responded by chasing all of the snakes out of the country, driving them into the water. Now there are no snakes in Ireland. Archaeologists have found that there is no fossil evidence of snakes ever living in Ireland. Two factors worked in the Irish people’s favor – it was too cold for snakes to live there during and immediately after the Ice Age, and the country is technically an island, so snakes couldn’t get there.
6) For many years, you couldn’t visit a pub in Ireland on March 17th.
These days, St. Patrick’s Day is associated with spending time in bars and drinking green beer. However, for much of the 20th century, people in Ireland couldn’t celebrate this holiday in a bar. St. Patrick’s Day used to be considered a religious holiday there, and as a result, many places were closed – from banks and grocery stores to bars. All of this changed in 1970 when it became a national holiday instead.
7) Shamrocks were used to represent the Holy Trinity.
According to the Catholic religion, the Holy Trinity stands for the Father (God), the son (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost. It’s often represented by the sign of the cross and in many other symbolic ways. Back in the 5th century, St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate this concept. It worked because the shamrock has three leaves. Since then, it’s become the official symbol of Ireland and its association with St. Patrick and his holiday has stayed the same.
8) The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland didn’t take place until 1903.
Despite the fact that the United States has had St. Patrick’s Day parades since the 1700s, Ireland didn’t hold one until the early 20th century. The very first of these parades were held in Waterford, Ireland in 1903. Dublin followed suit in 1931. Now their parades are known for being extravagant affairs with live music and plenty of marchers.
9) The village of Dripsey, Ireland celebrates the holiday with a Vintage Tractor and Car Run.
There are many ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. One of the most unique of them takes place in Dripsey, Ireland. This village holds a Vintage Tractor and Car Run, which is pretty much what it sounds like – a parade of old vehicles. The festival also includes live music and traditional costume contest. Fun fact – Dripsey is in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. The parade took place in 1997 and lasted for 76 feet. The marchers went from one of the village’s pubs to the other.
10) March 17th is the day that St. Patrick died.
According to records, St. Patrick, then known simply as Father Patricius, (for the record his birth name was Maewyn Succat), died on March 17, 461 A.D. At the time, he was living in Saul, Ireland, overseeing the construction of a church that is no longer standing. A modern-day church, called St. Patrick’s Memorial Church stands on that same spot.