St. Patrick's Day leprechaun hat, gold, and shoes
March 3, 2022

Luck Of The Irish! 5 St. Patrick’s Day Facts

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with us with some myth-busting facts about the special day and the Saint the holiday is all about!

#1. St. Patrick Was Born in Britain, Not Ireland

Though the real St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, he was born in Britain–not Ireland–at the end of the 4th century. It is believed that St. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders who had attacked his family’s estate, and then sold as a slave to a Celtic priest in Northern Ireland. Serving six years as a shepherd, St. Patrick escaped back to Britain and eventually returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.

Upon his return to Ireland, St. Patrick served as minister to Christians already living in Ireland and began to convert the Irish. This is contradictory to a lot of existing folklore, as it was long believed that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland.

Another debunked legend–St. Patrick did not banish snakes from Ireland. Research shows that snakes were never in Emerald Isle in the first place as, at that time, it would have been too cold for reptiles.

#2. Leprechauns Are Based on Celtic Fairies

Did you know that the original name for the mischievous little green-clothed beings we know as leprechauns are “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow?”

Leprechauns are believed to have originated from the Celtic belief in fairies–specifically, tiny men and women who could use their powers for good or evil. Typically, folklore depicted leprechauns as cranky beings who mended shoes of other fairies.

Today, we think of leprechauns as little tricksters who are most closely related to St. Patrick’s Day events.

#3. Shamrocks Aren’t Just Lucky, They’re Sacred

The shamrock, a three-leaf clover, was called the “seamroy” by the Celts and considered a sacred plant symbolizing the start of spring.

Legend explains that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a guide to explain the Holy Trinity. By the 17th century, the shamrock became the symbol of emerging Irish nationalism.

#4. America Started Many St. Patrick’s Day Traditions

St. Patrick has been celebrated in Ireland since the 1600s, but the start of St. Patrick’s Day parades began in America.

Historians believe that a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601, in a Spanish colony, of what is now St. Augustine, Florida. Other St. Patrick’s Day festivities included:

  • 1600: St. Patrick’s Day celebration organized by the Spanish Colony’s Irish vicar Ricardo Artur.
  • 1737: Homesick Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in Boston and in New York City on March 17.

Sadly, COVID-19 has canceled St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world for the last two holidays, for the first time in decades.

But just because parades and parties are canceled, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an American-made tradition–corned beef and cabbage. Though ham and cabbage were eaten in Ireland, the cheaper version for immigrants to the United States was corned beef. Those Irish-Americans of the 19th and 20th century would purchase leftover corned beef from ships returning from the tea trade in China. Then, they would boil the beef three times—the last time with cabbage—to remove some of the brine.

#5. America Loves St. Patrick’s Day, But The Irish Were Originally Scorned

American’s may now love celebrating Irish heritage via St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but that wasn’t always the case. In 1845, the potato blight caused widespread hunger throughout Ireland, causing 1 million people to die and another 2 million to abandon their land.

What became the largest-single population movement of the 19th century, nearly a quarter of the Irish nation came to the United States where they were looked down upon as “disease-ridden, unskilled, and a drain on welfare budgets.”

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