When it comes to celebrating St. Patrick‘s Day we all like to mark it in our own way; whether it’s gathering to watch the parade march through your city centre or having a few pints of your favourite tipple. However, there are some pretty interesting tidbits about this historic day that you might not be aware of. These facts range from things about the man himself to how the day is celebrated around the world. There’s so much more to St. Patrick’s Day than you might think!
Ten things that you might not have known about St. Patrick’s Day…
1. St. Patrick didn’t drive snakes out of Ireland
This might seem like an obvious one, but there is some interesting context to the birth of this myth. It is now thought that the snakes represent pagan priests or druids – so while St. Patrick didn’t drive out actual snakes, he drove out a representation of them.
2. St. Patrick’s original name
During Patrick’s time, a common practice for priests was to change their names when they were ordained. Before St. Patrick was an ordained priest his name was actually Maewyn Succat. So if he hadn’t become a priest we could be celebrating Maewyn’s Day!
3. St. Patrick wasn‘t Irish
Contrary to popular belief, he was not in fact Irish. It is thought by historians that St. Patrick came from either Wales or Scotland. His strong connection to Ireland was in fact established much later in life.
4. His traditional colour is not green
The original colour of St. Patrick was in fact blue. It was only after he became closely associated with the Irish Independence movement that the connected colour evolved from blue to green.
5. A dry St. Patrick’s Day?
It wasn’t always the tradition to celebrate with a pint of the black stuff. Up until the 1970s in Ireland, you weren’t actually able to get your hands on a drink on St.Paddy’s. It was celebrated as a religious holiday – and that meant no booze!
6. Celebrating on March 17th
The main reason why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th is because it is the day that St. Patrick died. It is written that he passed away peacefully in the year 461 AD.
7. Celebrating stateside
You probably know that the Americans are well known for celebrating the big day in style. Some of the biggest and earliest parades took place in New York. In 1762 in the Big Apple a reported 250,000 people took to the streets in celebration.
8. The origins of the shamrock
Over the years the humble shamrock has become the traditional symbol not only for St. Patrick, but for Ireland as a whole. It was originally a tool that St. Patrick used to teach people the concept of the Holy Trinity, each petal representing different aspects of the holy spirit.
9. The traditional way to celebrate
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate the big day would have been to go to mass and don some fresh green shamrock. Fresh shamrocks wrapped in cloth (then tin foil) would be pinned to your jacket.
10. A whole river of green
Perhaps one of the most outlandish ways that Americans have celebrated St. Patrick occurs in Chicago, where on March 17th they dye the Chicago River green! Every year they dump 11kg of environmentally-safe green dye into the water and the colour changes for a total of around 5 hours.
Enjoy your celebrations this weekend, however you choose to mark St. Patrick’s Day!
Eve Brannon, Features Editor