If you are like most folks, when you think of St. Patrick’s Day, you may think of shamrocks, green things and maybe even some corned beef and beer. We’re here to set the record straight, however, and give you the legit scoop on the beloved Saint Patrick, as well as the holiday that is duly named in his honor.
St. Patrick was not Irish. Say what???? Of all things you’d think St. Patrick definitely was, Irish would be the numero uno, right? Although St. Patrick spent most of his adult life preaching Christianity to the pagan people of Ireland, his parents were actually citizens of Rome, and he likely grew up in Scotland or Wales.
March 17 is not St. Patrick’s Birthday. Most of the time, holidays that honor a specific individual are celebrated on the birthday of the honoree. In the instance of St. Patrick’s Day, however, March 17 is the date that marks St. Patrick’s death, not the date of his birth.
St. Patrick spent much of his youth as a slave. When St. Patrick was but a lad, he was taken prisoner by some Irish ruffians and then subsequently sold into slavery. For several years, St. Patrick was forced to herd sheep and work hard labor in the frigid fields of the Irish countryside. Interestingly enough, the experiences he had while being held in captivity may have been what turned his heart toward religion.
The Shamrock is not the symbol of Ireland. Irish legend teaches that St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Trinity. The plant was used to show people how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could be separate, yet still be considered one and the same. Since medieval times, Ireland has most often been represented by the symbol of an Irish harp, not the shamrock.
St. Patrick did not eliminate all snakes from Ireland. The truth is; there is no evidence that there ever were any snakes living in Ireland. The climate on the Emerald Isle is far too cold for snakes to survive. Many scholars believe that the legend of the snakes being driven from Ireland by St. Patrick is purely symbolic. Historically, evil and wickedness are often depicted in the form of snakes, thus any reference to snakes is most likely a figurative one.
St. Patrick and Leprehauns. Despite what some may say, there is no real or direct connection between St. Patrick and the elusive, playful leprechaun. As the celebration of St. Patrick's Day has become more and more popular among the masses, many symbols of the Irish have all sort been lumped together and used as part of the celebrating this favorite Irish holiday.
St. Patrick’s traditional color is blue. In ancient artwork, St. Patrick is almost always depicted wearing blue robes. Historically, as far back as Henry the VIII, the color blue, used in conjunction with a golden Irish harp, has represented Ireland on various flags, Irish symbols and other coats of arms. Over time, because Ireland’s countryside is known for being extremely lush and green, Ireland became nicknamed the Emerald Isle. The color green eventually became the hue most commonly associated with Ireland and St. Patrick as well.
There are more Irish in the U.S. than in Ireland. Well…almost. There are approximately 34 million folks in the United States that can boast having Irish ancestry. There are only 4.2 million people living in Ireland today. Many Irish immigrants flooded into the United States during the infamous Irish potato famine that lasted from 1845-1852. These industrious Irish immigrants came to the states and sought positions as railroad workers, factory workers or some even went into the military.
St. Patrick’s Day used to be a religious and political observance. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a religious observance, honoring the life of a Saint that was very important to the Irish people. Additionally, St. Patrick’s Day has also had its roots deep in politics. Historically, Irish folks were treated very harshly and were heavily discriminated against when they first came to the United States. The Irish were a unique group of people with many peculiar parts to their culture. Irish folks found ways to fight against this discrimination by organizing themselves in an effort to combat the many injustices that they faced in those early days. St. Patrick’s day became a holiday that was often used to voice their many social and political viewpoints.
No Drinking was allowed on St. Patrick’s Day. Until 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was considered a religious observance, thus drinking was not a part of the celebration. In fact, most pubs and bars were closed in observance of the popular holiday. This “dry” feature to St. Patrick’s Day was observed from 1903 until 1970, at which time the law surrounding St. Patrick’s Day was changed and the holiday was then reclassified. Today, drinking and St. Patrick’s Day have become hopelessly intertwined. A cold glass of Guinness or a celebratory mug of honorary green brew is all part of St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Cheers!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from your friends at Halloween Express!