Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Whether you’re Irish or just dreaming of the Emerald Isle, here are 35 facts you probably didn’t know about this lucky holiday.
- Saint Patrick’s birth name is believed to be Maewyn Succat (he took the name Patrick upon becoming a priest).
- While March 17 is the commemoration of his death, the actual dates of his life are unknown (it’s estimated he lived during the 5th century).
- Saint Patrick was born in Scotland to Roman parents, and thus is not actually Irish.
- He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave by Irish pirates when he was about 16.
- Contrary to legend, there has been no evidence of snakes in Ireland. The story was likely based on a parallel of his conversion of Irish Druids to Christianity.
- Most of the history of Saint Patrick has been derived from his two surviving letters: Declaration (Confessio) and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus (Epistola).
- The National Museum of Ireland houses the “Bell of the Testament”, that originally belonged to Saint Patrick.
- The Order of St Patrick was a British Order of Chivalry established in 1783 in the likes of The Order of the Garter (England) and the Order of the Thistle (Scotland).
- Saint Patrick is venerated in four Christian denominations: Catholicism (Roman and Eastern), Anglicanism, Lutheranism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
- Because he lived during the first millennium when sainthood was declared by local dioceses, Saint Patrick was never formally canonized as a saint.
- Saint Patrick is the patron of two countries (Ireland and Nigeria) and 13 dioceses in the United States.
- In countries and dioceses where St. Patrick is a patron saint, rules of the Lenten observances are lifted on his Feast Day (thus you can eat your corned beef even if it falls on a Friday).
- Saint Patrick is the patron of engineers, paralegals, hairdressers, miners, and people who have a fear of snakes.
- Depending on where it falls in the calendar with respect to Lent and Holy Week, St. Patrick’s Feast Day is sometimes celebrated by the Church on an alternate day in March.
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, whereas Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan is one of the most visited churches in New York.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
- Franciscan friar Luke Wadding was responsible for establishing March 17th as a Feast Day for St. Patrick with the Church.
- Until the 1970s, bars and pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day because it was an official holiday.
- In the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day is only an official holiday in two counties: Suffolk County, MA and Chatham County, GA. Everywhere else it is considered a commemoration.
- The Feast Day of St. Patrick on March 17th has been recognized in Ireland since the tenth century, but it was made an official holiday in 1903.
- Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in America in 1737 by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston as a way to boost morale for Irish-American culture.
- S. presidents have historically shown their Irish sides during St. Patrick’s Days of election years, hoping to gain a following with the Irish-American community.
- March is Irish-American Heritage Month in the U.S.
St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
- The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York, not Ireland, in 1762.
- Popular bodies of water dyed green for the holiday include the Chicago River (since 1962) and the White House fountain (since 2009).
- The largest St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in New York City and draws over 3 million spectators.
- Americans will spend more than $250 million on alcohol in one day, and sales of Guinness will more than double.
- Over 5.5 million people will visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
- The shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in Hot Springs, AR at only 98 feet.
- While green is the assumed color of St. Patrick’s Day, historically blue was equally used to represent it (based on the Order of St. Patrick). Other tie-ins include the colors of the Irish flag (white, orange), holiday colors (gold, rainbow), and liturgical colors (white, violet).
- The symbol of shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day is said to have come from Saint Patrick’s use of shamrocks to teach people about the Holy Trinity. Shamrocks are actually young clovers, and often other three-leaved plants are included in the distinction.
- In the Northeast, planting peas is a popular way to celebrate (due to the color and time of year).
- Ceilidhs, or Gaelic gatherings with music and dance, are traditional ways to celebrate the occasion.
- Corned beef and cabbage actually has Jewish origins, not Irish. Poor Irish immigrants who ate Irish bacon and potatoes in their native land replaced it with this cheaper Jewish deli offering and the tradition lived on.
- The number of Americans who claim Irish ancestry is seven times larger than the total population of Ireland itself.
- In the U.S., nine states have an Irish population over 17%: Montana, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Do you have any St. Patrick’s Day trivia you’d like to add? Please share in the comments below!
“May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you where you go.”
– Irish Blessing