9 Surprising Facts About St. Patrick’s Day You Don’t Know (Even if You Are Irish)

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st. patrick's dayWhile green and getting hammered may be the modern tradition for any well thought out St. Patrick’s Day celebration, this wasn’t always the case. In fact there are probably, several details about St. Patrick and the history and traditions of St. Patrick’s Day that you probably don’t know. 

“The modern celebration of St. Patrick’s Day really has almost nothing to do with the real man,” Philip Freeman, a classics professor at the Luther College in Iowa. So what is the real story behind St. Patrick and this day? Well, here are nine facts to break it down for you.

1. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish!

Contrary to everything your intuition has taught you, St. Patrick was actually English. He was born in Britain around 350 A.D. and probably lived in Wales.

According to Brad Hawkins, a professor of religious studies who spoke with the Daily Forty-Niner, St. Patrick was kidnapped around the age of 16 and brought to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. He tended sheep for about 10 years before he escaped to England. There he took refuge in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years. That’s where he became a priest, and later took his teachings back to Ireland. “He established the religious system of Rome and originated the Christian Church in Ireland,” Hawkins told Daily Forty-Niner in 2000. “He was probably quite a forceful speaker.”  St. Patrick proselytized all over Ireland for 30 years, but his actions often angered the Celtic druids. He was arrested several times. 

2. St. Patrick didn’t rid Ireland of snakes

One legend that is often in accordance with St. Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland during one of his sermons. Legend has it that St. Patrick sent the serpents into the sea, but snakes are not actually found in post-glacial Ireland because of the country’s geographical position. 

3. Leprechauns were first mentioned in the 8th century

Believing in leprechauns, a term coming from the Irish word meaning “small bodied fellow,” probably originated in the Celtic belief in fairies. According to History, Celtic folktales told stories of tiny men and women with magical powers who were known for their trickery. Leprechauns were said to have spent most of their time making shoes and stored their coins in a hidden pot of gold. They probably looked nothing like the drunk round men in green attire we see today. 

4. The chance of finding a four leaf clover is 1 in 10,000

The rarity of a four leaf clover suggests a possible recessive gene that very rarely appears in nature. Those fortunate enough to find one are said to have good look. The shamrock is certainly a popular Irish symbol but it is NOT the symbol of Ireland. The harp was actually associated with the Irish and appears on Irish gravestones and manuscripts. 

5. The official color of St. Patrick is actually blue

Several artworks of St.Patrick show him wearing blue vestments. Blue as also commonly used on flags and coat of arms to represent Ireland. Green came into the St.Patrick picture much later, as a symbol of the greenness of the “Emerald Isle.”

6. St. Patrick’s Day was a dry holiday in Ireland until about 40 years ago

Yes, that is right. The Irish holiday so typically associated with getting absolutely sloshed was traditionally a dry celebration. In fact, Irish law between 1903 and 1970 made St. Patrick’s Day a religious holiday for the whole country. Meaning, all the pubs were shut down for the day. That law was overturned in 1970. The madness of St. Patricks Day only made it to Ireland after the country realized it could boost springtime tourism. 

7. Everything you know about St. Patrick’s Day originated in America

The parades, the fanfare, the dressing up is all American. In the early days of US, Irish Americans who wanted to celebrate their shared identity started St. Patrick’s Day with banquets at elite clubs in cities like Boston, NYC, and Philadelphia. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1763 and was common by the mid-19th century. St. Patrick’s Day was a relatively minor religious holiday in Ireland until the 1970s. 

8. Corned beef and cabbage isn’t an Irish traditional dish

A dish of corned beef and cabbage, while delicious, is more American than Irish. According to 9News, the dish is a variation of a traditional Irish meal that included bacon. But because early Irish-Americans were poor, beef was a cheaper alternative, and cabbage happened to be a springtime vegetable.  

9. There are more Irish people living in the US than in Ireland 

At least when it comes to their descent. The population of Ireland is roughly 4.2 million, but there are an estimated 34 million Americans with Irish ancestry. This partly has to do with the potato famine between 1845 and 1852 that had millions of Irish fleeing the country for the U.S.

 

And there you have it! The TRUTH about St.Patrick’s Day