Six surprising facts you may not have known about St. Patrick’s Day

As we all know in the Western world, March 17th marks the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day, where Irishman and non-Irishman alike drink themselves silly, deck themselves in green and eat their fill of corned beef and cabbage. Traditionally, St. Patty’s Day is celebrated as a religious holidy to credit the man responsible for converting Ireland to Christianity. While it is still celebrated as that, especially among the Irish community, the holiday is definitely more of a celebration of Irish culture and heritage in today’s world.

Every year, Chicago celebrates St. Patrick's Day by dying its river green; boats travel up and down the river dying it to just the right color before the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade

But there are some fun and interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day that most of us probably never knew. Yes, there actually is more to the holiday than drinking pint after pint of Guinness and avoiding those dreaded pinches by wearing green!

1. Saint Patrick was not actually born in Ireland: March 17th marks the date of St. Patrick’s death, not his birth. He was actually the son of a noble Roman in England, kidnapped and taken to Ireland. Patrick finally escaped when apparently, the voice of God told me to flee by ship. After that, Patrick joined a monestary and decided it was his destiny to convert the Irish to Christianity. This was his life mission until he died on March 17, 461.

2. Saint Patrick was never officially canonized by the Catholic Church: Now, for those of us that don’t know what it means to canonized, it is the act of officially declaring someone a saint after their death. The reason St. Patrick was never canonized is that there wasn’t an official canonization process until the Middle Ages around the 12th Century.

3. Until recently, the pubs and bars in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day: Up until the 1970’s, the law in Ireland required that all pubs remain closed on St. Patrick’s Day. This is because the holiday is traditionally reserved as a holy day with an obligation to attend mass.

4. The Irish don’t actually wear green in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day: No one has to wear green in Ireland merely because everyone is already Irish. However, the green shamrock – which has three leaves – has constantly been utilized as a symbol of the holiday because it was utilized by St. Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to the people of Ireland.

5. Corned beef and cabbage is not a traditional meal in Ireland: In fact, many Irish were unable to afford beef until they left to achieve more prosperity in America. They would have been more likely to eat boiled bacon, if any meat at all on the holiday. The popularity of the meal is more of an Irish-American tradition rather than purely Irish.

6. The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City, not Dublin: The parade in NYC actually pre-dates the Declaration of Independence and will be held for the 250th time this year! Dublin didn’t actually host a St. Patrick’s Day parade until the 1930’s. Even then, Ireland didn’t create the Saint Patrick’s Festival until decades later to promote their March tourism.

While the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has definitely evolved over years, the tradition is one that no matter how it’s celebrated, is always memorable. We hope you have a wonderful and safe St. Patty’s Day! 

Some footage from the 2011 NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade


About Megan Ridgway

Currently, I am in my last semester at the University of Texas at Austin studying public relations with a concentration in French. Oui Oui! Since coming to Austin almost four years ago, I have caught the live music fever bad and I don't see it going away anytime soon. In my free time, I love going to live shows around the city with my friends and checking out whatever festival is offered! I also love doing yoga, exploring thrift stores around the city and making the "occasional" stop on Sixth Street.
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