Nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is associated with parades, wearing green and beer. However, the holiday is established on a rich history that dates back over 1500 years.
According to historians, the earliest known celebration was held on March 17, 1601; from there, St. Patrick’s Day went global and grew to become what it is today. It was a commemoration of the death of St. Patrick that happened in 461 AD.
As you plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you should do it with more understanding this year. Here are fun facts about St. Patrick’s Day:
The real St. Patrick came from Britain.
A lot of what is known about St. Patrick’s life has been entwined with fairy tales. According to historians, St. Patrick, the patron of Ireland, was not born in Ireland. They believe he was born in Britain towards the end of the 4th century.
Irish raiders kidnapped him when he was 16 years and sold him to a Celtic priest in Northern Ireland as a slave. He flew back to Britain after toiling for six years. He would later return to Ireland as a Christian missionary. St. Patrick died in 461AD in Downpatrick, Ireland.
There were no snakes in Ireland for St. Patrick’s to banish.
One of the most famous legends associated with St. Patrick is that he stood on top of an Irish hillside and drove out snakes from Ireland. His actions prompted all serpents to glide away into the sea. As a matter of fact, researchers have revealed that snakes never inhabited the Emerald Isle in the first place.
According to the researchers, the country’s fossil records show no sign of snakes. Moreover, Ireland has been surrounded by water since the last glacial period. Earlier, the area was covered in ice, meaning it was too cold for the snakes to survive.
The Shamrock was regarded as a sacred plant.
The Shamrock is a three-leaf clover that has been associated with Ireland for hundreds of years. The Celts called it the “Seamroy” and considered it a sacred plant that signified spring arrival. Legend suggests that St. Patrick used the Seamroy as a visual guide while explaining the Holy Trinity. By the 17th century, the Shamrock had become an emblem of the rising Irish nationalism.
America was the host of the first St. Patrick’s parade.
Even though people in Ireland had celebrated St Patrick from the 1600s, the St. Patrick’s Day parade tradition began in America. It actually precedes the founding of the United States. According to records, a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601, in a Spanish colony that is presently known as St. Augustine, Florida. Spanish colony’s Irish priest Ricardo Artur had presided over a parade and St. Patrick’s Day celebration the previous year.
Over 100 years later, in 1762, on March 17, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched in Boston and New York City. The passion for the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and other early American cities grew from this time. As seen below, in an infographic by Betway, showing how the globe celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, the largest parade is held in Manhattan, New York.
Not surprisingly, the 2020 parades in New York City and Boston had to be cancelled due to the global health crisis.
Corned beef and cabbage was an innovation of the Americans.
Lastly, let’s talk about some food. The Americans invented the meal – corned beef and cabbage- that became the St. Patrick’s Day staple around the country. In Ireland, people ate ham and cabbage, while poor immigrants used corned beef as a more economical alternative.
The Irish Americans dwelling in the slums of lower Manhattan late in the 19th century and early 20th century bought leftover corned beef from ships returning from China’s tea trade. They would then boil the beef three times. The last time they boiled it with cabbage to remove some of the saltwater.