Dusted off your giant green leprechaun hat or that “Kiss Me I’m Irish” tee yet? Have you dug out your recipes for green confections and corned beef and cabbage? Well, it’s about that time again. St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.
Gangs of rowdy revelers ‘crawling’ from pub to pub, masses of green-clad people marching to bagpipes in city streets, and assortments of green shamrock decorated treats are now some things equated with St. Patrick’s Day across the globe. But that’s not how it always was.
It started out as a religious feast day in the ninth or tenth century to commemorate Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Born in the fourth century, he was enslaved as a teenager and brought to Ireland from his native Britain, but eventually escaped after hearing the voice of God. Years later, the voice urged him to return to Ireland as a missionary and bring Christianity to the people. There, he used clovers to explain the Holy Trinity and converted pagan Druids. Irish Catholics venerate the saint on the anniversary of his death, March 17, by going to mass, praying for missionaries and celebrating with a large meal.
The St. Patrick’s Day that we know — and local bars love — is more about national pride than a celebration of the religious figure. This custom started on American soil with banquets held by Irish charities in Boston. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in New York City in 1762, when Irish soldiers marched through the city as a way to reconnect with their roots. St. Patrick's Day is now associated with everything “Irish”— green beer, shamrocks, luck, and traditional dishes.
Most of us don’t know all the facts about Saint Patrick or the holiday celebrated in his name. Bet you didn’t know that Saint Patrick wasn’t all about green, or that St. Patrick’s Day is only a public holiday in three places, or that “Saint Patty’s Day” is not on March 17th. To find out the answers to these trivia facts and to learn a few more, click through our slideshow.