Today, and each year on March 17th, Saint Patrick’s day is celebrated.
In addition to being a national public holiday in Ireland, the celebration has become global. All around the world, people dress up in green clothes and hats, paint shamrocks on their faces and drink Guinness.
But few people actually know who St. Patrick really is and the ‘Irish’ traditions associated to these festivities! Read on to learn 8 interesting facts about this popular celebration.
1. Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish:
Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland, but he was actually born in Britain, around the year 385. At 16 years old, he was kidnapped and imprisoned in Ireland as a slave by a band of pirates. According to the legend, Patrick met God in his dreams and went on to study theology, and to become a priest. He spent a good part of his life in Ireland with the mission of converting the Gaelic Irish to Christianity.
The shamrock is a popular Irish symbol but it is not the “symbol” of the country. The official symbol is a harp.
Prior to the 1970’s, Saint Patrick’s day was alcohol-free. Since it is considered a Catholic holiday, the religion was against alcohol. That meant no green beer!
The color green was not originally associated with Saint Patrick. Legendary Saint Patrick traditionally wore blue clothing. Green was associated to Ireland years later because of the lush color of the countryside. We can also link this color green with “the Emerald Isles”, a poetic name for Ireland.
This is one of the funniest facts. Some scientists have celebrated Saint Patrick in space, it was a way to show that there is a big Irish community of Astronauts. The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted in space “Maidin mhaith from the International Space Station! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to the Irish all around the globe. Good morning!” on March 17th, 2013.
The parade for Saint Patrick’s day was started in the United States and the biggest events for the 17th March take place there. There are more than 200,000 participants and 3 million spectators. Many other parades take place all around the world.
Every year in Boston, the river is turned neon green for the Saint Patrick parade. The White House participates in this festive event by coloring it’s front fountain green. Natural vegetable dyes are used to create a green color that won’t harm the environment.
According to legend, he pushed away the snakes from “the Emeralds Isles”. There is no actual evidence that snakes ever existed there. The ‘banished snakes’ was more of a symbol of the Pagan Druid priest, so this image relates to Saint Patrick converting the Irish to Christianity.