10 Fascinating Saint Patrick's Day Facts

Updated on February 22, 2019
Believe in USA profile image

I am a nurse who enjoys traveling, spending time with my family and having fun. I've had a passion for traveling all my life.

There Is a Fascinating Story Behind Saint Patrick's Day

We all learn about Saint Patrick's Day from the time we're little kids. From the beginning, we're cutting shamrocks from construction paper, wearing green, singing Irish songs, and for some of us, drinking beer. But what do we really know about Saint Patrick and the holiday that bears his name? This article offers some history and insight in 10 wonderful bite-sized chunks.

1. Saint Patrick Was Not Born in Ireland

While much of Saint Patrick’s life is shrouded in mystery one fact that is known for sure is that he was born to a wealthy Roman family in Britain sometime around the year 486. Patrick lived in Britain until the age of 16 when he was kidnapped by Irish raiders who took him to Ireland and sold him into slavery. He was a slave for 6 years. While a slave, Patrick turned toward Christianity to help him cope with his situation. It was also during this time that Patrick began to have visions of the Irish reaching out their hands to him. These visions drove Patrick to want to convert the Irish to Christianity.

After six years in captivity, Patrick supposedly received a vision that told him that it was time for him to escape Ireland and return to Britain. Patrick brokered passage on a ship that took him home to be reunited with his family. Not long after returning home Patrick entered the seminary. After spending 15 years there, he was ordained as a priest and sent by Pope Celestine I to spread the Gospel to the Irish.

2. The Celebration Saint Patrick's Day Dates Back to the 9th Century

Saint Patrick is believed to have died on March 17, 461. During the 9th century, Irish Catholics started observing the Roman Catholic Feast Day of Saint Patrick. In the beginning, Saint Patrick's Day was observed as a strictly religious holiday with people going to church and spending time with friends and family. The tradition involving drinking likely grew out the fact that the holiday falls during Lent, a time when Catholics abstain from many desires. Many Catholics started using the holiday as a respite day from their Lent crucible and indulge in some fun drink and festivities.

1904 New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade
1904 New York City Saint Patrick's Day Parade

3. The First Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Took Place Not in Ireland, but in New York City

The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place March 17, 1762, in New York City. It consisted of mainly of Irish soldiers serving in the British military. This parade started a tradition that culminated in the formation of the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade which is the largest and oldest civilian parade in the world. Every year over 150,000 participants march the 1.5-mile long parade route. They are watched by an estimated audience of 3 million people who line the streets.

4. Saint Patrick Did Not Drive All the Snakes Out of Ireland... or Did He?

Almost every child in elementary school hears the story of how Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland with a shamrock. As kids, that is a neat story to hear while you cut your own shamrock out of construction paper. But where does this story come from and is there any truth to it?

The legend goes that while performing a 40-day fast, Saint Patrick was accosted by snakes. As a result, Saint Patrick chased all the snakes in Ireland into the sea. There is a nugget of believability to this story since there are no snakes in Ireland. The reason, however, according to scientists is that there never were any snakes in Ireland.

According to Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, there is no archeological evidence of snakes ever inhabiting Ireland. Monaghan bases this conclusion on an analysis of fossil records and other historical evidence. During the last Ice Age that ended approximately 10,000 years ago, Ireland was far too cold for reptiles. When it ended, snakes were unable to cross the sea from the warmer areas they inhabited to colonize Ireland.

That is a cool science lesson, but I have to say, to picture Saint Patrick bravely chasing dangerous snakes into the ocean with a shamrock is a much more exciting explanation.

5. The Iconic Saint Patrick’s Day Clover Represents the Holy Trinity

We’ve all been picking clovers out of the ground and making them out of construction paper since we were children. I myself remember scouring the grass of my school and my yard looking for that elusive and lucky 4-leafed clover. But I never asked myself why. How did the clover come to be associated with the Irish and why does a 4-leafed clover bring good luck?

The story surrounding the clover involves Saint Patrick’s use of it to explain the concept of Christianity to the Irish people. Legend has it that Saint Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock or clover to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity including the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

From this legend evolved the legend of the four-leaf clover. According to experts approximately 1 in 10,000 clovers have four leaves. Today many believe the four leaves symbolize faith, hope, love, and luck.

6. Saint Patrick Is Credited With Introducing the Celtic Cross

Having spent time in Ireland, Patrick was familiar with the Irish culture and their many pagan traditions. As a result, he incorporated many Irish traditions into his Christian teachings to make them more appealing and palatable. The most famous example is the Celtic Cross. During this period, many Irish worshipped the sun as a deity. Recognizing this fact, Patrick combined an image of the sun with the Christian cross to form the now iconic Celtic Cross.

7. Global Consumption of Guinness Increases Over 800% on Saint Patrick’s Day

No drink is more associated with Saint Patrick’s Day than beer, and no beer is perhaps more associated with the Irish than Guinness. On Saint Patricks Day, consumption of Guinness increases over 800% according to Steady Serve.

It is estimated that 33 million people down at least one Guinness on Saint Patrick’s Day. That adds ups to approximately 13 million pints. In addition to beer, cabbage shipments increase 70% during Saint Patrick’s Day week. Approximately $6 billion is spent on Saint Patricks Day related festivities every year.

Flag of the Society of United Irishmen
Flag of the Society of United Irishmen
Flag of Henry VIII
Flag of Henry VIII
Flag of the President of Ireland
Flag of the President of Ireland

8. Wearing Green on Saint Patrick’s Day Has Political Origins

We’re all told that we need to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day to avoid getting pinched. But why green? The answer may surprise you.

Well, according to Paul Finnegan, the Executive Director of the New York Irish Center, wearing green actually symbolizes Irish Republicanism, a nonsectarian movement from the late 18th century that campaigned for Ireland to become an independent republic. You see, before it was associated with green, Ireland was associated with the color blue. How can this be?

During his reign in the 16th century, Henry VIII claimed the Irish thrown. His royal flag at this time included blue. In fact, you can still see Henry VIII’s influence in Ireland today. The flag of the president of Ireland is not green but blue with a harp. In 1641 the Great Irish Rebellion saw Catholic landowners and bishops rebel against English rule. One of these rebel groups was the Confederation of Kilkenny led by Owen O’Neill. O’Neill used a green flag with a harp to represent his group. This is the first known official use of the color green to represent Ireland.

In the 1790s, the Society of United Irishmen, a group devoted to Irish independence, wore green as part of their official uniform. It was during this time that several ballads and poems were written about the group and its use of green and the tradition spread.

9. You Wear Green on Saint Patrick’s Day to Hide From Leprechauns

I remember as a kid waking up on Saint Patrick’s Day scared of having my skin compressed by some immature classmate. “Don’t wear green or you’ll get pinched” I used to hear. But what does that have to do with anything?

Legend has it that, on Saint Patrick’s Day, leprechauns go around pinching people who aren’t wearing green. Apparently, wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns the same way that mud made Arnold Schwarzenegger invisible to the Predator. So, until leprechauns invent some sort of green vision detector, the color green will keep you safe on Saint Patrick’s Day.

10. Drinking on Saint Patrick's Day Used to Be Illegal in Ireland

With all the Guinness consumed on Saint Patrick's Day, it's hard to believe it was ever a dry holiday. Well, that's exactly what it was in the Emerald Isle up until fairly recently. From 1903 to 1970, Irish law declared St. Patrick's Day a religious observance for the entire country. That meant that all pubs were mandated to be closed for the day so people could spend the day in church or at home with their friends and family. The law was overturned in 1970 when St. Patrick's was reclassified as a national holiday and pubs were allowed to open much to the delight of Irish and beer companies.

References

History.com Staff (2009). History of Saint Patrick's Day. History.com. Accessed Feb 19, 2019 from https://css.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/history-of-st-patricks-day

Beaulieu, David (2018). Difference between Irish Shamrocks and 4-Leaf Clovers. The Spruce. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from https://www.thespruce.com/irish-shamrocks-and-4-leaf-clovers-2130966

Waxman, Olivia (2017). How Green Became Associated With Saint Patrick's Day and All Things Irish. Time.com. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from http://time.com/4699771/green-irish-st-patricks-day-color/

Steady Serv (2018). Beer By the Numbers: Saint Patrick's Day 2016. Steady Serv website. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from https://steadyserv.com/blog/st-patricks-day-beer-facts/

Owen, James (2014). Did Saint Patrick Really Drive Snakes out of Ireland? National Geographic.com. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140315-saint-patricks-day-2014-snakes-ireland-nation/

Kiernan, John (2018). 2018 Saint Patricks Day Facts. Wallethib.com. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from https://wallethub.com/blog/st-patricks-day-facts/10960/

History.com Staff (2018). Saint Patrick. History.com. Accessed Feb 19, 2019 from https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/who-was-saint-patrick

Biography.com Staff (2018). Saint Patrick Biography. Biography.com. Accessed Feb 19, 2019 from https://www.biography.com/people/st-patrick-9434729.

Catholic Online (2017). Bet You Didn't Know These 10 Things About Saint Patrick and Ireland!. Catholic.org. Retrieved Feb 18, 2019 from https://www.catholic.org/news/saints/story.php?id=45045.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Believe in USA profile imageAUTHOR

        George Johnson 

        2 months ago from San Antonio, TX

        Thanks for the comment Thelma. I hope to enjoy saint patty’s day in Ireland one day

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        2 months ago from Germany and Philippines

        I have lived and worked in Ireland for a few years. It was there that I have seen and enjoyed St. Patrick's Day. Thanks for sharing this article. Very interesting and very informative.

      • Believe in USA profile imageAUTHOR

        George Johnson 

        2 months ago from San Antonio, TX

        I've heard the Guinness tour is a fun time. The shamrocks and green merchandise definitely play well wit the tourists but there is so much more to Ireland.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        I have learned a lot from your article. A few years ago we visited Dublin. Amongst other things we did the Guinness tour, which was interesting. I also noticed that tourist shops were full of leprechaun souvenirs, shamrocks and a lot of green merchandise.

      • Believe in USA profile imageAUTHOR

        George Johnson 

        2 months ago from San Antonio, TX

        Thank you for the feedback. I've always wanted to go to Ireland and this article makes me want to go even more.

      • profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        2 months ago

        I thoroughly enjoyed this article as I was born in Ireland and this is a very special day for me. I once spent St Patrick's Day in Washington DC and was amazed at the wonderful celebrations. Thank you for sharing.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, holidappy.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://holidappy.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)