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What is St Patrick’s Day?

March 13th 2020


Whether you’re Irish or not, there’s always a temptation every year to take part in celebrating St Patrick’s Day – a well-loved tradition worldwide that sees thousands of people coming together to drink, dress in green with big hats and shamrock painted faces!  Here are a few facts you may have not known about this big day.  

St Patrick wasn’t actually Irish  

Although he made his mark by introducing Christianity to Ireland, Patrick wasn’t Irish himself. He was born to Roman parents in Scotland or Wales in the late 4th century.  

Why green?   

We’ve come to associate kelly green with the Irish and St Paddy’s day but actually the Saint’s official colour was “Saint Patrick’s blue,” a light shade of sky blue. The colour green only became associated with this big day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.  

It used to be a dry holiday (Phew! Thank goodness is not anymore)    

It’s a national holiday in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, but up until the 1970s, pubs were closed on that day. (The one exception went to beer vendors at the big national dog show, which was always held on St. Patrick’s Day.) Before that time, the saint’s feast day was considered a more solemn, strictly religious occasion. Now, the country welcomes hordes of green-clad tourists for parades, drinks, and perhaps the reciting of a few limericks and lots and lots of Guinness. 

Shamrocks   

How did the shamrock become associated with St. Patrick? According to Irish legend, the saint used the three-leafed plant (which is not to be confused with the four-leaf clover) as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity when he was first introducing Christianity to Ireland. 

Traditional feast food  

Corned beef and cabbage, which has become a traditional St. Patrick’s Day staple for Irish Americans doesn’t have anything to do with the grain corn. Instead, it’s a nod to the large grains of salt that were historically used to cure meats. Sounds yummy right??  

St Patrick ran the snakes out of Ireland (or did he?)  

St. Patrick gets credit for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. Modern scientists suggest that the job might not have been too hard—according to the fossil record, Ireland has never been home to any snakes. Through the Ice Age, Ireland was too cold to host any reptiles anyway, and the surrounding seas have kept off serpentine invaders ever since. Modern scholars think the “snakes” St. Patrick drove away were likely metaphorical.  

No Lady Leprechauns  

Don’t be fooled by any holiday decorations showing lady leprechauns. In traditional Irish folk tales, there are no female leprechauns, only nattily attired little guys who spend their days making and mending shoes (meaning they earned that gold they’re always guarding).  

St Paddy’s day chant   

You can’t attend a St. Patrick’s Day event without hearing a cry of “Erin go Bragh.” What’s the phrase mean? It’s a corruption of the Irish Éirinn go Brách, which means roughly “Ireland Forever”   

We can already feel the excitement building, so pick up your face paints and green-clad outfits, big buckled hats and enjoy the celebrations of this historic day loved by many, bringing everyone together.