Everybody loves St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, how can you not love a fun festival about drinking beer, wearing green, and getting together with family and friends? It is the ultimate celebration of Irish culture. And with millions of people around the world sharing Irish roots, it truly has become a worldwide celebration.
Fun Facts about St. Patrick’s Day
After visiting Ireland multiple times we have been lucky enough to be part of our share of Irish celebrations. There is a reason that St Patrick’s day is one of the most fun celebrations around the world. So, head out to the Beer Store (all you Canadians) and grab your cans of Guinness, put on your green shirt, and let’s get celebrating!
1. Saint Patrick was Not Irish
Saint Patrick, a patron Saint of Ireland was actually English. More accurately, he is believed to have been from Wales or Scotland. He was brought to Ireland as a slave around 432 AD. but escaped and after hanging out in Ireland working as a shepherd for a few years, he returned to England to become a priest. He then later returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.
2. The Feast of St. Patrick
After St. Patrick’s death, Ireland dedicated a day to him known as the Feast of St. Patrick. The date of March 17 was chosen because that was his death day. St. Patrick died on March 17, in Downpatrick Ireland. Back then, death days were more important than birthdays. Nobody really knew what day they were born, but if they became somebody, everyone knew their date of death.
Thus the Feast of St. Patrick was celebrated every year on the death day of the patron saint. It was a day of feasts and religious ceremonies. So, when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around this year, let’s make it a feast day too!
3. No Beer!
Since it was known as the Feast of St. Patrick, St. Patrick’s day was originally a dry holiday. No beer was to be found. Instead, St. Patrick’s Day was a day of religious ceremonies and feasts. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that Ireland started celebrating St. Patrick’s day with the same alcoholic vigor as the United States.
It has only been more recently that beer and hearty celebrations have become more popular in Ireland. Some have said that it was in 2016 when celebrating 100 years of Irish independence that St. Patrick’s Day really started to take off in Ireland. But from what I can tell, it’s been going strong in Dublin for decades.
4. Four Leaf Clover
Contrary to popular belief, the four-leaf clover is not associated with St. Patrick’s Day. While the four-leaf clover is considered lucky and is connected with luck in both Irish culture and around the world, it is actually the three-leaf Shamrock that is connected to Saint Patrick.
5. The Shamrock
Recently we had a zoom meeting with some prominent St. Patrick’s experts where we learned a little about the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. They told us that it was important to wear a Shamrock and a badge for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The bigger the better. This tradition has been taking place in Ireland since the 17th century!
The Shamrock has always been considered a sacred plant to the Celts and Irish. The only reason they could come up with it being associated with St. Patrick’s day is that it is believed that St. Patrick used it as an example when explaining the Holy Trinity while bringing Christianity to Ireland. The three leaves are used to represent, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost.
6. Green Was Not the Colour of Choice
Here is a fact I didn’t know, the National color of Ireland was blue! Blue was always associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day until the 19th century when Ireland became more intertwined with the color green. The Emerald Isle embraced the green changing their flag to the colors of Green White and Orange.
It wasn’t until Irish Independence that the color green became the symbol of Ireland. But green has always played a strong role in Irish culture with the Shamrock and the green harp flag used by the Irish Catholic confederation in the 1600s.
7. First St. Patrick’s Day Parade
After doing some research, I found that America first celebrated St. Patrick’s day in 1601, in St. Augustine, Florida. It was organized by the Irish vicar of the Spanish colony. (this may or may not be true, because according to Ireland tourism, it was indeed first celebrated in 1737 in Boston)
Regardless, the St. Patrick’s Day parade really took hold when it was held in Boston and New York City in 1737. It was the Irish members of the British Battalion who came home feeling homesick and nostalgic. They came together for the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade to celebrate their Irish culture.
And, now, as they say, the rest is history. America celebrates St. Patrick’s day with more vigor than Ireland! But Ireland has been gaining speed in the past few decades and St. Patrick’s Day will be forever connected with Irish culture around the world.
8. Downpatrick, Ireland
If you make a pilgrimage to Ireland in the near future (which we highly recommend, it’s our favourite country to visit!) you can see the grave of St. Patrick in the town of Downpatrick. Located in County Down in Northern Ireland, Down Cathedral dates back to 1183 and houses the remains of St. Patrick. In Downpatrick, they celebrate the life and legend of St. Patrick all year long.
9. St. Patrick’s Centre in Northern Ireland
The St. Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick is the only center in the world dedicated entirely to St. Patrick. There’s an Imax experience telling And they even have their own Camino on St. Patrick’s Way. I’m totally doing this when we go back to Ireland.
10. The Rock of Cashel – Aka St. Patrick’s Rock
Not only is it a beautiful place to visit in Ireland, The Rock of Cashel in Tipperary, is associated with St. Patrick. It was here that he baptized King Aengus, Ireland’s first Christian leader. But I like this legend much better: It is said that St. Patrick banished Satan from a mountain cave. In a fury Satan took a bite from the mountain and spat it out, thus creating the Rock of Cashel. With 1000 years of history, it is one of the coolest places in Ireland that we visited.
11. The Myth of the Snakes
I never really knew this before, but legend has it that St. Patrick drew all the snakes out of Ireland. Well, apparently, snakes never lived in Ireland.
12. Leprechauns and St. Patrick’s Day
Many associated St. Patrick’s Day with Leprechauns right? Well, they have nothing to do with St. Patrick. Leprechauns are a part of the Irish culture in Irish folklore. They were little people who liked to play practical jokes on others. During my research, I read that Walt Disney sparked the connection in his movie, Darby O’Gill & the Little People starring Sean Connery. (I am totally going to rent this movie on St. Paddy’s Day)
13. Celebrating Irish Culture – St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
People started dying their beer green in the early 1900s. The river runs through Chicago in the US. (The Chicago River, is dyed green each year!) People around the world with Irish Ancestry gather for this ancient Irish Feast Day. Some 70 million people around the world have Irish Ancestry. Dave and I included! Dave actually has really deep Irish blood. Check out Dave discovering his Irish Roots here. Irish Americans eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. This is not an Irish tradition. In Ireland, they ate ham. Buildings all over the world light up in Green on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m going to keep an eye out for the CN Tower this year!
So now that you know a bit more about St. Patrick’s Day when you cheer your pint of Guinness and wear your green, give a nod to the Patron Saint of Ireland who started it all. Or perhaps, we should pay tribute more to the homesick Irish immigrants in America who came to celebrate their homeland.
Whatever the reason, St. Patrick’s day is celebrated around the world through gatherings of green and Guinness. We’ve traveled the world, and I can say that there is an Irish pub in nearly every city in the world. The Irish are definitely doing something right celebrating life with a certain Joie de Vivre.
Happy St. Patricks Day everyone. Or as they say in Ireland, “Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Dhuit. (Law Fey-la Paw-rick Sun-a-dit)