While St. Patrick’s Day is now associated with wearing green, parades and beer, the holiday is grounded in history that dates back more than 1,500 years. The earliest known celebrations were held in the 17th century on March 17, marking the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick in the 5th century.
St. Patrick was born in Britain
Historians believe that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Britain (not Ireland) near the end of the 4th century. At age 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and sold as a slave. After toiling for six years as a shepherd, he escaped back to Britain. He eventually returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.
Color associated with St. Patrick was blue, not green
Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17
In modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. Catholics would attend church in the morning and partaking of modest feasts in the afternoon. Up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17 to observe the solemn day.
Leprechauns are based on Celtic Fairies
The original Irish name for the red-haired, green-clothed figures of folklore is “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.” Belief in leprechauns likely stems from Celtic belief in fairies— tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies.
The Shamrock was considered a sacred plant
The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in America
NYC holds the world’s oldest civilian parade & largest in the US
More than 100 St. Patrick’s Day Parades are held across the US
Chicago River is dyed green every year
Although Chicago historians claim their city’s idea for a river of green was original, some natives of Savannah believe the idea originated in their town. In 1961, a hotel restaurant manager named Tom Woolley convinced city officials to dye Savannah’s River green. The experiment didn’t work as planned, and the water only took on a slight greenish hue. Savannah never attempted to dye its river again, but Woolley maintains that he personally suggested the idea to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Corned beef and cabbage is an American innovation
* All facts were taken from history.com.
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