The most kids know of St. Patrick ‘s Day is that you must wear green or you’ll get a pinch from your friends. Adults see the day as an occasion to celebrate, sometimes with green beer and other assorted alcoholic beverages. However, few really know what they are celebrating or why the holiday is so important, particularly in the Americas.
The following 10 facts may help you to better enjoy this popular holiday.
10. March 17th is when Patrick died, not his birthday.
9. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish and wasn’t born in Ireland. His parents were Roman citizens.
8. St. Patrick was a slave. At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders who took him away and sold him as a slave. At the age of 22, he escaped and made his way to a monastery in England where he spent 12 years growing closer to God.
7. St. Patrick used the shamrock to preach about the trinity.
6. Legend says St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland. Scholars suggest that the term “snakes” may be figurative and refer to pagan religious beliefs and practices rather than reptiles or amphibians.
5. Patrick’s color is blue. The original color associated with St. Patrick is blue, not green. In several artworks depicting the saint, he is shown wearing blue vestments. Green was associated with the country later, presumably because of the greenness of the countryside. Today, Ireland is also referred to as the “Emerald Isle.”
4. The Shamrock is not the symbol of Ireland. The shamrock is a popular Irish symbol, but it is not the symbol of Ireland. It is certain that the harp was a popular symbol in Irish legend and culture even well before that period, and is now officially the national symbol.
3. There are more Irish in the USA than Ireland. Well, sort of. An estimated 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry. Some are pure-blood Irish, meaning they or their parents came from Ireland, but many more have mixed ancestry today. By contrast, there are 4.2 million people living in Ireland.
2. St. Patrick’s Day in the US has a strong political history. In the mid 19th century, American Irish were victims of discrimination and began to organize themselves politically. By the end of the century, St. Patrick’s Day was a large holiday for the Irish and an occasion for them to demonstrate their collective political and social might.
1. Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are: About 1 in 10,000.