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. Most people have no clue who Saint Patrick was or why there is an entire holiday dedicated to him in Ireland. So we thought we’d share a few fun St. Patrick’s Day facts to help you understand the festivities to come.
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, the Irish know how to party. But St. Patrick’s Day began as a serious religious event honoring the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick himself. So as you head out to the Beer Store and grab your cans of Guinness, take a moment to pay homage to Mr. Saint Patrick with these St. Patrick’s Day facts and thank him for this fun day of festivities.
When is Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17 around the world. It is believed that Saint Patrick died on March 17, 461, and in the 1600s the catholic church celebrated his death on this day. It is a public holiday in Ireland with banks and many businesses closing to celebrate. However, St. Patrick’s Day is popular around the world and is celebrated around the world including in Canada and the United States where Irish immigrants brought the St. Patrick’s Day celebration from their homeland.
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. Saint. Patrick died on March 17 in the year 461, 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 of Ireland, Saint Patrick. 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 in the Early Days of Stain Patrick’s Day
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 even 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. Check out: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – The Ultimate Tasting Tour
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 on St. Patrick’s Day 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 Saint Patrick used it as an example when explaining the Holy Trinity while bringing Christianity to Ireland. The three leaves of the Shamrock are used to represent the Holy Trinity being the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, there you go!
6. Green Was Not the Colour of Choice
Here is a St. Patrick’s Day fact I didn’t know, the National color of Ireland was blue! It isn’t until more recent history that Ireland is associated with Green. Blue was associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day until the 19th century. 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. When Ireland became more intertwined with the color green after independence, the Emerald Isle embraced the green changing their flag to the colors of Green White, and Orange.
The color green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day today because it is now the color of Ireland’s flag and also because of the legend that St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity.
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, St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in 1737 in Boston.
Regardless of where Saint Patrick’s Day was first celebrated, the first St. Patrick’s Day really took hold when it was held in Boston in 1737 It was the Irish members of the British Battalion who came home feeling homesick and nostalgic so they marched in Boston. They came together for the first informal St. Patrick’s Day Parade to celebrate their Irish culture. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City in 1762. New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade starts at 11:00 am sharp at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and up fifth avenue.
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 Saint 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.
- Check out our Ireland travel guide here: 23 of The Very Best Things to do in Ireland
11. The Myth of the Snakes
I never really knew this before, but one of the most enduring Irish legends is 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. Irish legends state that 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)
But there are plenty of Irish Legends about Leprechauns, just not on St. Patrick’s Day.
13. The Chicago River is Dyed Green Each Year
Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s day with great vigor. Many Irish Immigrants live in Chicago and since 1962, The Chicago River has been is famously dyed green every St. Patrick’s Day.
In Chicago and other cities in the USA, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for bars and pubs, and it is also associated with drinking green beer and Irish whiskey.
A really cool fact about St. Patrick’s Day is that the global economic impact of St. Patrick’s Day is estimated to be over $5 billion, with millions of people around the world celebrating the holiday each year.
14. Celebrating Irish Culture – St. Patrick’s Day Traditions
15. People started dying their beer green in the early 1900s.
16. People around the world with Irish Ancestry gather for this ancient Irish Feast Day.
17. 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.
18. Irish Americans eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. This is not an Irish tradition. In Ireland, they ate ham.
19. 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)
Where will your next St. Patrick’s Day celebration be?
Read More About Ireland
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