Facts About St. Patrick's Day

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Overview

St. Patrick's Day brings to mind shamrocks and pinches. Some St. Patrick's Day traditions are based deeply in Irish lore. Others were created along the way to the St. Patrick's celebrations around the world. Originally, this day was solely a religious day in Ireland in honor of St. Patrick. In the 1970s, Ireland decided to apply some secular symbols and celebrations, adding them to the religious side of St. Patrick's Day, to boost tourism.

St. Patrick

According to History.com, the real St. Patrick was born in Great Britain. He was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a teenager by Irish raiders. He worked enslaved as a shepherd for six years before escaping back to Britain. There, he later experienced a religious dream telling him to go back to Ireland to teach the Christian faith. He returned after first finishing 15 years in religious training. The original St. Patrick's Day was a religious day in Ireland to honor him for bringing Christianity to the country. March 17 was chosen, because it is the date of St. Patrick's death in the fifth century and a religious feast day.

Parades

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place in New York City in 1762 on March 17. That first parade has grown to become the biggest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States. Three million people gather to watch the 150,000 people and floats that form the parade. The parade route is a mile and a half long, with the last participants reaching the end five hours later.

Green

Wearing green on St. Patrick's Day and being pinched if you don't is not an Irish tradition. Surprisingly, green is considered an unlucky color in Ireland and is associated with a green flag in use when Ireland was not free. The Irish use blue instead and have what they call "St. Patrick's Blue" in their flag and in military uniforms. According to the American Greetings Company, the custom of wearing green originated in the United States, as did the custom of being pinched. The latter was started by children who used the made-up rule to pinch classmates. Still, even though not specifically Irish, the color green for St. Patrick's Day is one observed worldwide. The city of Chicago, Illinois, even dyes its river green on St. Patrick's Day

Myth

A common myth associated with St. Patrick's Day is the driving out of the snakes of Ireland. The legend is that St. Patrick drove the snakes into the sea. In reality, Ireland never had any snakes. History.com explains that the story is based on the fact that St. Patrick banished pagan beliefs to convert the country to Christianity. The snakes were the pagans, but in passing the story down, the meaning was accidentally changed to real snakes. That is why you see snakes in the celebrations even though it is a myth. Another myth is that St. Patrick's birth name was Patrick. His birth name was Maewyn Succat. His name was later changed to Patricius, or Patrick, by the church.

Symbols

The shamrock was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland, because it was a symbol of rebirth. During Ireland's struggle for freedom from the English, the Celts wore the shamrock in a silent protest. From there, as knowledge of the shamrock grew, it eventually because a symbol of Ireland itself. Leprechauns, another popular symbol on St. Patrick's Day, was based on an Irish belief in "lobaircin," small people they believed were magical. It was never part of St. Patrick's Day. However, in the United States, Disney released a movie called "Darby O'Gill & the Little People." This type of leprechaun was lovable, so American people took him to heart, eventually adding him to St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

About this Author

Connie Whiting has been a professional writer since 1999. She is published in Red Rock Press Anthologies and "Legacy" magazine. She is also an experienced food column writer. Past positions include certified dental assistant and virtual assistant for “Your Invisible Assistant” a service focused on travel arrangements and media writing. Currently, Connie writes for Demand Studios while pursuing an Associate of Arts.

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