St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 17 every year. Here are some little-known facts about St. Patrick and the the holiday celebration on which everyone is a little Irish.
An Irish Legend, Not an Irishman
The man who became St. Patrick was born in Britain at the end of the 4th century. At the age of 16, marauders captured him and forced him into slavery in Ireland. He escaped six years later. It was during this time that he experienced a religious conversion and became closer to God. He went home to Britain and became a priest.
No Snakes in Ireland
There have never been snakes in Ireland, and it is only a legend that St. Patrick gave a sermon to drive the snakes out of Ireland. After God spoke to him in a dream, St. Patrick went to Ireland to convert the pagan Druids to Christianity. He spent 30 years in Ireland on this mission. Some believe the tale of the snakes is symbolic for how St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland and banished Paganism.
The First St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
Boston, Massachusetts celebrated the first St. Patrick’s Day in 1737. The Charitable Irish Society organized it. The first parade in honor of St. Patrick’s Day took place in New York City on March 17, 1762. Irish soldiers serving in the British Colonial army during the United States Revolutionary War held the parade to celebrate their Irish heritage.
The Symbol of the Shamrock
According to lore, St. Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost to the druids. The shamrock has been associated with Ireland ever since. It is the national flower of Ireland.
Drowning the Shamrock
It is a St. Patrick’s Day custom to take a shamrock that has been worn all day and float it in the last drink of the day. After toasting to everyone’s health, pluck the shamrock from the drink and toss it over the left shoulder.
A Minor Holiday in Ireland
St. Patrick’s Day was a minor religious feast day in Ireland until the 1970s. After seeing the popularity of the holiday around the world, especially the United States, Ireland saw the potential to increase spring tourism. It is now a festive holiday all across Ireland.
Sources and More Information
St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day: More Dallas Than Dublin
St. Patrick’s Day 2011: Facts, Myths, and Traditions