Grab your green and fiddle and get ready for St. Patrick’s Day. We associate this day with fun, food, music, and dancing. St. Patrick’s Day has become an American tradition, but where did leprechauns come from, and who is St. Patrick? You might even find a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow!
St. Patrick wasn’t Irish.
St. Patrick was originally brought to Ireland as a slave from Roman Britain. His name then wasn’t even Patrick! Then he was known as Maewyn Succat, but he didn’t care for being called Maewyn. When he eventually escaped to his freedom, was educated in France, and then returned to Ireland as a free man, he chose the name Patricius. Somehow, St. Maewyn’s day just doesn’t sound as fun?
St. Patrick was famous for banning snakes from Ireland.
As the story goes, the Saint stood on a hill with a staff and banished all snakes from the Emerald Isle. It’s likely there were never any snakes in Ireland, just like Hawaii and New Zealand, but we’ll let St. Paddy keep this one!
The Shamrock was a symbol of spring and freedom.
Before the shamrock was an inspiration for those sunglasses and printed on t-shirts, the plant was an important symbol of spring to the ancient Celts. Later, when Britain began to outlaw Irish traditions and language, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish freedom and spirit!
Leprechauns are part of the Celts’ belief in fairies.
If you’ve seen a marshmallow cereal commercial, you’ve definitely seen a leprechaun! These little guys were known by legend to be the shoe cobblers of the fairy people, so now we know why they’re always stealing pots of gold. Quite different from the cheerful sprites we picture today, to the Celts, leprechauns, or “lobaircin,” were known to be grumpy, but you might be too if you were a fairy shoe repairman!
Many Americans claim Irish ancestry.
One reason St. Paddy’s Day might be one of our favorite American holidays is that Irish ancestry is the second most popular claim to heritage in the U.S., ranking only behind German. There are over 32 million citizens in the U.S. that report having Irish ancestry, so this may be why we get a little excited to party when March 17 rolls around!
You might be pinched if you don’t wear...blue on St. Patrick’s Day?
While today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are cloaked in shades of green, St. Patrick’s Day used to be associated with the color blue. When the Order of Saint Patrick was founded in the late 1700s, the order adopted blue as its color. However, when Ireland rebelled against the British crown, the rebels chose green as their color, a nod to the song, “The Wearing of the Green”!
St. Patrick’s Day was a day of sobriety.
It was, for many years, taboo to drink on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, in Ireland, the government previously forced pubs to shut down on the holiday. Then, in the 1980s, one beer company convinced people it was “weiser” to drink beer in celebration of St. Paddy’s life! The rest is a somewhat blurry history!
There are St. Patrick’s Day celebrations all over the world!
Some say that St. Patrick’s Day is so popular around the world, it’s the most internationally celebrated secular holiday! Parades and festivities occur annually in America and Ireland, but also in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Russia, Japan, Korea, and even on the International Space Station!
Some say St. Paddy’s Day should be a national holiday.
Some say that the U.S. should make celebrating easier, and create a national holiday in the name of St. Patrick. But we’ll give you three guesses as to which Irish beermaker is pushing for that holiday!
The holiday has a longstanding history in American culture.
A celebration that was once a reverent observation of Ireland’s patron saint among its people, followed Irish immigrants across the pond, where the festival became less a religious observance, and more a celebration of Irish culture in general. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration occurred in what would become America in 1601! So grab your shamrock sunglasses and your “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” necklace, get out there, and celebrate a historical American tradition!