Saint Patrick’s Day is almost here, the holiday now known for its parades and… drunken antics. We all know the typical trappings of the day – wear the color green or get pinched, celebrate at your local pub, attend a parade, Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland… the list goes on. But there’s a whole host of unknown and strange facts about the Irish holiday.
For example, you know that whole green thing? Apparently, we’re supposed to wear blue instead. Even the name Patrick is a bit of a misnomer, as the eponymous saint went by another name according to Irish legend. And believe it or not, the famous drinking holiday was once a dry holiday in Ireland.
We all know Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the United States, Ireland and all over the world… but it is also the national holiday of a tiny island nation in the Caribbean. And speaking of Ireland, Saint Patrick himself wasn’t Irish – he was English. The entertaining snakes in Ireland’s story is sadly a myth. And despite all of its associations with luck, March 17th is actually the day Saint Patrick died.
Keep reading for fifteen strange facts about Saint Patrick’s Day.
15. Green is not the correct color
Green has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day; but it turns out that’s completely wrong. Green is a relatively recent association with the holiday, it came about due to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century. The actual color is a light shade of blue, which is still prominent on ancient Irish Flags. Green became the preferred color during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, when the green clover became the sign of nationalism; along with its associated color green. So if someone tries to pitch you on March 17th for wearing blue instead of green – give them a little history lesson.
14. Erin Go Bragh
Have you ever heard the phrase Erin go Bragh on Saint Patrick’s Day? Well, its actually Eirinn go Brach in the Irish language. Brach basically means until the end of time or eternity. Erin Go Bragh is an anglicization of the term; which translates to “Ireland Forever.” The phrase was also associated with emerging Irish nationalism, and was already in use by the 19th century. The phrase was emblazoned on flags by Irish Americans as early as the Mexican American War. It is also used in various sport teams. When you hear this term – or see it – on Saint Patrick’s Day, you’ll know what it really means.
13. Saint… Maewyn’s Day?
When it comes to saints, real names can often change. This is certainly the case with Saint Patrick. While Saint Maewyn’s Day doesn’t have the same ring as Saint Patrick’s Day, it is closer to the truth than you would think. For one thing, Saint Patrick was not born Patrick. His actual name was Maewny Succat, and he was born in the year 387 (allegedly) in Banna venta Berniae to the parents Calpernius and Conchessa. After a period of captivity and his eventual conversion to Christianity, he changed his name to Patricius. Patricius means father of citizens, and was later further anglicized to Patrick.
12. The Meaning Behind The Shamrock
Ever wonder where the whole shamrock thing on Saint Patrick’s Day came from? Well, apparently Saint Patrick used the plant as an analogy for the Holy Trinity when bringing Christianity to Ireland – at least according to legend. The first mention of the link between Saint Patrick was a 1681 account of an English traveler to Ireland. A fun fact about shamrocks – their names comes from the Irish word seamróg, which basically means little clover. On Saint Patrick’s Day you can’t blink without seeing one of these clovers. Since Saint Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint, and the shamrock is associated with him, it became associated with the holiday as well.
11. It Was Once A Dry Holiday
This may be incredibly difficult to believe… but Saint Patrick’s Day was once a dry holiday. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day was a strict religious holiday for a large part of the 20th century. So… the pubs were shut down nationwide on the day. But clever folks found a workaround. There was a big national dog show held on March 17th called the Royal Dublin DogShow, and that’s the only place a person could drink on the day. Needless to say, those shows were quite popular. But alas, the day was shifted to a national holiday instead of a religious one in 1970, and Saint Patrick’s Day was dry no more.
10. The Largest Shamrock in the world
Do you want to know where you can find the largest shamrock in the world? It’s in the United States, in the small town of O’Neill, Nebraska. Starting in the 1980s, the townspeople began drawing a massive shamrock on its main street every Saint Patrick’s Day. Finally, in the summer of 1998, the concrete was made permanent by its enterprising residents after raising a great deal of money. While not an actual shamrock in the botanical sense, it is the largest portrayal of one in the world. So if you’re ever in Nebraska on March 17th, stop by and take a look for yourself.
9. Green Chicago River
Boston and New York are the two go to U.S. cities when it comes to Saint Patrick’s Day, but Chicago is not to be overlooked. Every Saint Patrick’s Day since 1962, the city has dutifully poured green dye into the unsuspecting Chicago River. Ironically, this was initially done to try to control the amount of pollution in the river. How much dye? Forty tons to get the river to a nice emerald green. The process takes about forty five minutes, and it’s quite the sight, and many visitors come to Chicago just to check it out – 400,000 of them.
8. It’s also a Caribbean holiday
We know that Saint Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland and a pretty big (fun) deal in the United States, but did you know that a tiny Caribbean island nation celebrates March 17th as its own national holiday? On the island of Monsterrat in the British West Indies, population 4,000, an entire week of Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations are held. This includes a dinner, church service, and calypso competition. This is all due to its Irish immigrants, who arrived in large numbers on the island in the 17th century. The Irish presence on the island was so strong that their language endured until the 19th century.
7. 18th Century Parade
The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade began in 1762 with thousands of marchers making their way down Fifth Avenue on foot. It begins at 44th Street and ends at 79th Street. To honor the parade’s early tradition, no modern trappings are allowed to this day during the parade — floats, cars, you name it. Technically the world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade occurred in Boston in 1737, but the New York one receives a large amount of the attention. If you ever have a chance to attend the parade, be aware that you are watching a nearly two century year old tradition.
6. English Saint Patrick
Many aren’t aware that the patron saint of Ireland was actually… English. He was born in Roman Britain (though there are also claims that he was born in Scotland or Wales). He spent his childhood and adolescence in what would become England until he was 16. Not much is known about his early years in future England, but he probably had no idea what an effect he would have on the country that would become Ireland. It was after a period of captivity that he made his way to Ireland, where he would eventually make his mark.
5. No Snakes in Ireland
Unfortunately, the most entertaining stories aren’t always true. We’ve all heard of the legend of Saint Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland. It makes an interesting visual, and many artworks have been dedicated to this feat – Patrick heroically driving hordes of stakes off the island with his staff. Well, it turns out this wasn’t true. Ireland has never had reptiles. The weather isn’t conducive to their habitat, so they’ve never made a home there. Like many stories of lore, this was likely just a metaphor for the pagan druid priests whom he converted or drove out of Ireland.
4. Millions of dollars of beer
Now this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but beer does well on Saint Patrick’s Day. But did you know just how well? Well, Guinness seems to have become a bit of a patron saint of the holiday. Now, on any average day, 5.5 million pints of this hearty beer are sold per day. But on Saint Patrick’s Day alone? It rises to 13 million. Just on one day. In general, over 27,000 pints of beer are poured on March 17th. So when you go out to celebrate on the day, know that you and millions of others are enjoying a time honored tradition.
3. March 17th Was The Day He Died
With all of Saint Patrick’s Day’s association with good luck, the date has taken on aspects of luck as well. But… that shouldn’t be the case. March 17th is actually the day Saint Patrick died. As a saint, his holy day is the day of his death, hence the original designation of the day as a religious one in Ireland. The date of his death is officially March 17th, 461 AD in Saul, Ireland. He left biographical notes of his life in the book the Confessio, which he wrote in his later life.
2. Saint Patrick was sold into slavery
Saint Patrick’s life was filled with many twists and turns – some dark. Patrick, when he was still Maewyn and living in what would become England, was kidnapped by Irish raiders. He was sold into slavery, where he spent years in Ireland, herding sheep and getting acquainted with its people. He escaped from slavery in his early twenties and returned to England. It was there that he spent time in a monastery and began his conversion to Christianity. But Ireland must have made its mark on Patrick, because he eventually returned to begin converting the people there.
1. It Began As An American holiday
As the patron saint of Ireland, you would think that the holiday began in Ireland, right? Nope. Akin to how we can trace modern Halloween traditions in America directly to immigrants, Saint Patrick’s Day as a holiday actually began in America. In 18th century America to be correct, by Irish immigrants suffering from persecution. Determined to hold on to their heritage, they began the holiday in earnest in America, with parades in Boston and then New York in the 1700s. It wasn’t until later that their native Ireland joined in making it a national holiday.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!