St. Patrick’s Day: 10 Things You Didn’t Know
It’s St. Patrick’s Day!
To celebrate, here are some interesting facts about the holiday that you may not have known:
1. Saint Patrick was not Irish.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He was actually born in Britain, probably in Scotland. He was kidnapped by pirates at the age of 16 and spent 6 years as a slave in Ireland. He became deeply devoted to Christianity during his captivity and after escaping and returning home, he became a bishop. St. Patrick later returned to Ireland to spread the teachings of Christianity.
2. We probably should be wearing blue.
Although today it is customary to wear green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day, the color blue was once the color associated with Saint Patrick. The color dates back to the 1780s when it was adopted as the color of the Order of St. Patrick. The official color was even named “St. Patrick’s Blue.”
3. Saint Patrick used shamrocks in his missionary work.
According to legend, Saint Patrick used shamrocks to help explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish. Saint Patrick is often depicted in images with a shamrock and today, it is one of the central symbols of St. Patrick’s Day.
4. Saint Patrick probably didn’t really banish snakes.
Many legends have been associated with Saint Patrick’s life. One story tells the tale that Saint Patrick once banished all the snakes in Ireland by chasing them into the sea. However, scientific evidence suggests that snakes were never in Ireland in the first place due to the icy waters that surround the country.
5. It was once a dry holiday in Ireland.
Although it’s common today to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a pub with a pint in hand, that wasn’t always the case. In 1903, St. Patrick’s Day became an official public holiday in Ireland. Observed as a religious holiday, pubs were closed every March 17 until the 1970s.
In American celebrations, drinking has been a fixture of the holiday since the 18th century.
6. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in America took place in New York.
On March 17, 1762, the first celebration in honor of the Catholic feast day for St. Patrick was held by Irish soldiers in the British Army in New York City. Today, New York City continues to hold one of the oldest and largest St. Patrick Day parades in the world.
7. George Washington gave his soldiers the day off in 1780.
In 1780, George Washington granted St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday to the troops. The Continental Army that had been encamped in Morristown, New Jersey had suffered through a brutal winter. To help boost moral, Washington declared a day off. It is estimated that at least one-quarter of the Continental Army soldiers were Irish by birth or ancestry.
8. There are more Irish in the U.S. than in Ireland.
According to census records, there are over 32 million people who claim Irish heritage in the U.S in 2015. The number is more than seven times larger than the entire population of Ireland.
9. Chicago has been dying the Chicago River green for over 50 years.
The Irish are one of the largest ethnic groups in Chicago, with over 201,000 Irish-Americans living in the city according to 2015 census data. Since 1962, the city has famously died the Chicago River green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Over 400,000 people come to watch along the river banks as boats release dye into the river. Did you know that the dye starts out orange before turning that perfect shade of green in the water?
10. It’s St. Paddy’s Day, not St. Patty’s Day.
You wouldn’t want to get caught making this common mistake. “Paddy” is derived from the Irish “Pádraig,” a variant of “Patrick.” “Patty” is a nickname for “Patricia.” Got it?