More than 34 million Americans claim to have Irish ancestry, but everyone is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17 we all celebrate St. Patrick with family and friends, often by wearing green, eating corned beef, and drinking beer! No matter how you celebrate, you should know a thing or two about Ireland’s biggest national holiday. Here are some cool facts about St. Patrick’s Day.
St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland that celebrates the country’s beloved patron saint. St. Patrick is responsible for converting the people of Ireland to Christianity. Many exaggerated tales have been told about the patron saint, but little is actually known about him. What we do know is that he was born in Britain and was captured by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen. He was held captive in Ireland for six years and lived in solitude as a shepherd. Living alone, St. Patrick turned to God, becoming a devout Christian. The saint later escaped and fled back to Great Britain but returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary to convert the Irish, who were mainly pagans at that time. Christians believe that St. Patrick died on March 17 in the year 461 CE or 493 CE. He was not officially canonized, but he is still viewed as a saint by many around the world.
St. Patrick’s Day Symbols
Of the many symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the shamrock is among the most recognizable. St. Patrick was said to have used the three petals of the shamrock to illustrate the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity. The shamrock is a registered trademark of the Republic of Ireland. The color green is also associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Initially, the color of the holiday was blue, but green became the dominant color since Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle and also because the flag of Ireland contains a stripe of green. We also associate leprechauns—those tiny men in green clothing—with St. Patrick’s Day. Beliefs in leprechauns stem from Celtic stories of fairies and magical powers. These little men were known for playing tricks and being cranky. Leprechauns supposedly pinch those who don’t wear green on St. Patty’s Day, so make sure you’re dressed appropriately on March 17!
The First St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Believe it or not, the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City and not in Ireland. With an increase of Irish immigrants coming to New York City, the holiday became widely popular. St. Patrick was one of the most successful Christian missionaries in history, so the Irish people felt it was important to celebrate his mission to convert almost the entire island of Ireland to Christianity. Irish soldiers serving in the British army in 1762 held the first parade. Besides New York City, other American cities, such as Boston and Chicago, hold elaborate parades.
St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland
Just like the big parades in New York City, Ireland also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with festivals. St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday and people throughout the country celebrate their Irish culture on that day. The largest parade in Ireland is in Dublin, but other small towns and villages create their own festivals. Thousands of people flock to Dublin because of its large puppet-like characters and flashy parade. In other regions, St. Patrick’s Day is a week-long celebration with performers and local musicians. Just like any other national holiday, banks and other businesses are closed; however, pubs are open. If March 17 falls on a Sunday, the holiday is celebrated on March 18 instead.