Every year on March 17th the world becomes a little bit Irish. It is a day of celebrating all things green and lucky, usually while enjoying a few pints as well. But many of us don’t know much about the day beyond that. In fact, you will probably be surprised to learn that St. Patrick’s Day originally had very little to do with any of those things. In the spirit of the day, here are 10 little-known facts about St. Patrick and the traditions we celebrate today.
- In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday similar to Christmas or Easter. Due to this, pubs were shut down and there was no drinking on this day from 1903 to 1970, when the day was reclassified as a national holiday, allowing the green beer to flow once more.
- Patrick wasn’t Irish, he was from Wales. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland where he was sold as a slave and worked for many years herding sheep. At age 22, he escaped and found solace for the next 12 years in a monastery in England.
- Green is not the original colour of this day, and even more interesting, it was believed to be unlucky. Blue was the colour associated with St. Patrick and was considered symbolic of Ireland for many centuries.
- While many assume the shamrock represents faith, hope and love, when introducing Christianity to Ireland, Patrick used it to teach about the Holy Trinity and how the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit could be separate entities yet one in the same.
- The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade didn’t take place in Ireland, but in New York City in 1762.
- Approximately 33.7 million U.S. residents are of Irish ancestry; that is almost nine times the population of Ireland itself.
- The legend of St. Patrick says he drove all snakes out of Ireland, but science shows that to be more metaphorical than literal. Fossil records indicate that Ireland has never had any snakes because the country was too cold to host any reptiles during the Ice Age, and the surrounding seas have kept them at bay ever since.
- The bar tab on St. Patrick’s Day can get quite high, with a 2012 global estimate pegging it at $245 million!
- Patrick’s Day by any other name may have been St. Maewyn’s Day. Irish legend says the Saint’s birth name was Maewyn Succat but he changed it to Patricius once he became a priest.
- “Erin go Bragh” is a distortion of the Irish “Éirinn go Brách” which means “Ireland Forever”.
Whether you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for its religious roots or for the day of love, luck and camaraderie that it has become, we hope you enjoy all the festivities the day has to give in the company of good friends.
Written by Christine Tompa