When most people think about St. Patrick’s Day, they imagine leprechauns, corned beef, parades, and green beer. Like many holidays, customs popular today have evolved over time. Read on to learn 9 common misconceptions about St. Patricks day:
- St. Patrick’s name wasn’t Patrick. Well technically it was, but he was born with the name Maewyn Succat. After he became a priest, he changed his name to Patricus, meaning “father figure.” I think we’ll stick with calling him St. Patrick.
- St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. Quick bio: St. Patrick was born in Britain, and kidnapped by Irish Raiders when he was 16 years old. He actually spent 6 years in captivity and worked as a slave, herding sheep and learning about the culture. When he was 22 years old, he made his escape and spent some time in an English monastery. He later became a priest and moved back to Ireland – the rest is history!
- St. Patrick didn’t drive any snakes out of Ireland. According to legend, St. Patrick saved Ireland by driving out all of the snakes in the country. Turns out, there may have never been any snakes! Most scientists agree that the climate is too cool, and that there is no evidence that snakes were ever there. Scholars suggest that this was a figurative term for pagan religious beliefs, and that he is recognized as a saint for driving the “evil” out of Ireland.
- Why St. Patrick’s Day is March 17th. Many believe that St. Patrick was born March 17, however this was the day he was believed to have died.
- St. Patrick’s original color was blue. When the Order of St. Patrick was established, they selected blue as the color because green was already taken. Also, blue had always been associated with Ireland- the original flag was even blue. Green wasn’t part of the picture until the 1798 Irish Rebellion when it was popular to wear a clover. Today, the country is referred to as the “Emerald Isle” and most people think green when they think Ireland and St. Patrick.
- America started the parades. The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually in America, held in New York City in 1762. British soldiers from Ireland marched through the streets to honor St. Patrick. The first parade in Dublin didn’t occur until 1931! Today, this is a popular tradition celebrated each year in both America and Ireland. Many cities have taken this even further – for example, Chicago is known for dying the the Chicago River green each year on the holiday.
- It’s not an actual holiday in America. Only in Suffolk County, Massachusetts is St. Patrick’s Day recognized as an actual “legal holiday.” We’re going to keep celebrating anyways!
- There are more Irish in America than in Ireland. It is estimated that 34 million Americans are of Irish descent, while in Ireland there are 4.2 million people total. Technically the 34 million Americans are actually of mixed ancestry, but it’s interesting nonetheless. This can be attributed to the large amount of Irish immigrants during the potato famine of Irleand, and continued until their economy recently improved in the 1990s.
- St. Patrick’s Day used to be a dry holiday in Ireland. Many people in America look at St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to drink, however it was looked at a bit differently in Ireland. From 1903-1970, St. Patrick’s Day was declared a religious holiday, shutting down all pubs for the day. In 1970, it was reclassified as a national holiday, so now the green beer flows freely again!