Once again, the world joins the Irish and the Irish Americans in commemorating St Patrick’s Day, an Irish Patron Saint recognized for introducing Christianity to Ireland. The day became official in the 17th century when churches such as the Anglican Communion, Catholic, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox began to observe the 17th day of March every year. Since then, the Irish asserted influence in all regions where they immigrated, turning a national event into a global celebration. With much said about the day, we cannot look away from the facts that remain hidden from the public domain.
1. St Patrick was Not Irish
Over the years, Irish immigrants have made strong statements in social, economic and political arenas, earning them global accolades. Ideally, March 17 presents every American an opportunity to become and feel Irish. While some associate the Saint with Irish ancestry, St Patrick was not Irish. He was born to a Roman-British Soldier, with his birthplace contested between Roman England and Scotland. It is also said that his name was Maewyn Succat, which was later Romanized to Patricius and hence the English version, Patrick.
2. The First Celebration Did Not Occur in Ireland
Saint Patrick Day in New York, 1895-Image Source: 6 sqft
In the USA, Irish immigrants leaned more towards social settings than capitalistic activities of the established immigrants. In lieu of that, they maintained strong cultural ties to their ancestral land and hence observed their traditional events.
While people consider St Patrick’s day an “Irish” celebration, a majority do not know where the first parade was held. The first documented parade was conducted in New York City, on March 17, 1762, where a small number of Irish Americans marched. While that remains memorable, several other celebrations are believed to have escaped the records with the first believed to have been in Boston in 1737.
3. Green Was Not The Original Theme Color
On the eve of the day, every public place is turning green to show solidarity with Irish celebrants. As for the kids, wearing the green attires saves them from a pinch, while the adult celebrants associate the color with Ireland. Originally, blue was the symbolic color for Ireland for many centuries as green was deemed unlucky. After Irish Independence, green became associated with the day as it was highly linked to the independent movement that steered the nation to freedom. As if not enough, Ireland’s reputation as the Emerald Isle and the eventual adoption of the color on the Irish flag led to the change.
4. St Patrick First Came to Ireland as a Slave
Image Source: Orthodox Church in America
The fact that St Patrick introduced Christianity to Ireland seems paradoxical owing to the early life of the patron saint. He was kidnapped by Irish pirates at age 16 and sold as a slave in Ireland. He spent 17 years in slavery herding cattle and later escaped captivity; something that he was the first to do. After reconnecting with his family and religious faith, he decided to go back to Ireland as a missionary, where he died in 461 AD.
5. St Patrick was at one point an Atheist
Despite the patron being highly regarded for his evangelical efforts and the effects after his death, little is told about his early life. Saint Patrick was born in a religious family but was a staunch atheist at a young age. In fact, he is said to have recaptured his religious faith when in slavery. He is believed to have seen God in a dream that dictated his escape from captivity.
Having spent 12 years in religious training, Saint Patrick dreamed of the Irish calling him and decided to return to Ireland. On his mission, he made significant converts such as the Gaelic Irish and the royal families. Also, he established monasteries, schools, and churches that steered his evangelical mission.
6. Three Million Pints of Guinness Downed On Saint Patrick’s Day
Image Source: Roundtown
Whenever you mention Ireland, two things come to mind: Guinness and social cohesion. Based on surveys, Ireland stands second in alcohol consumption per capita, with many of the mainstream brands originating from Ireland. While St Patrick’s Day is a religious commemoration, it brings out an Irish drinking culture in many ways. On any given day, Americans consume about 600,000 pints of Guinness, with the consumption going up to 3 million pints during St Patrick’s celebrations. Globally, the consumption is likely to reach 13 million pints during the holiday.
7. Corned Beef is a Jewish Delicacy
Image Source: Courtesy of Michael Ruhlman
If you are new to Irish culture, you may have fallen into the common belief that corned beef and cabbage are traditional Irish delicacies. While the meal is the typical delicacy for most people during the celebration, the meal is more American than Irish. In fact, corned beef and cabbages are Jewish specialties. The Gaelic Irish used bacon in most festivals, including St Patrick’s Day. On the other hand, Irish Americans adopted corned beef as it was the most affordable since the cabbages were abundant and cheap.
8. The $4.5 billion Expenditure On Saint Patrick’s Day
During the celebrations, enormous sums of money go to the preparations, parties, and feasts. In 2009, an estimated 26.1 billion pounds of beef went to prepare corned beef in the US with the average expenditure reaching $4.5 billion. The average cost per person remained at $39, with over 30% of Americans nationwide attending parties during the Day. As if not enough, more than 80% of participants are expected to wear green while about 25 % have already decorated their homes and offices.
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