Crazy St. Patrick’s Day History and Facts

CC. Andreas F. Borchert

St. Patrick’s day is on the way. How better to get in the mood than brushing up on some trivia? Impress them all down at the Pub Quiz with your Irish themed knowledge. You might only know about St. Patrick as an excuse to drink. But the history and customs behind it are fascinating. Read on for some simply baffling St. Paddy’s facts you’re sure to forget come the 17th. But don’t worry, you can always look them up again next year. Let’s start off with a bit of history.

1.Not Irish

You’ve probably heard this one before, but St. Patrick, famous for bringing Christianity to Ireland, was in fact not Irish. After cursory research, it seems where exactly he was from is not entirely clear. Some say modern day Wales or Scotland. Others, England. He certainly had a very Welsh looking name, though. At least to modern eyes. Which leads to our next fact.

2. Not Patrick

Yes, that’s right. Saint Patrick was not a Pat by birth. In fact, his name was quite the mouthful. Maewyn Succat. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue. Or maybe it does. I’ve no idea how it’s pronounced. Maewyn didn’t get a name change until he was an adult. When he became a Priest he took the name Patricius, or Patrick. Inspired by the Latin root “patr-” for “father.” So just what does Not Irish, Not Patrick have to do with Ireland? Glad you asked.

3. Kidnapped!

Apparently, he has quite the interesting Biography. He was born around 390 AD to a wealthy family.  He was kidnapped by Irish Pirates (Arrrr,  Boyo) when he was 16 and sold into slavery. Putting an end to his life of leisure.  He was brought to Ireland where he was a shepard for 6-7 years. He then escaped and made it back home. Of course, it doesn’t end there. A little old escape doesn’t get you be-sainted.

4. He went BACK!

The part that gets Paddy major saint cred is his return. After escaping from Ireland, he then became ordained as a priest. Following which, the madlad only went and the returned to the Emerald Isle. Absolute legend. Literally. He is credited with successfully spreading Christianity to Ireland. He also supposedly heard voices telling him to escape, return etc. But, I mean, you don’t get sainthood without a little spin. Speaking of spin.

5. He did NOT kick out the Snakes. Or did he?

Legend has it that St. Patrick is the reason there are no snakes in the land of Éire. Of course, after the ice age, there never were any snakes in Ireland… Still, why let a little reality get in the way of a good story. Speaking of…

6. The First Parade

St. Patrick was a well-known saint for quite a while. It has supposedly been a feast day in Ireland for over a thousand years. Further, St Patrick’s day became a religious holiday in 1631. However, in a twist, the very first parade was held even earlier. And not in Europe. Remarkably, the first recorded parade was held in the now US of A. In Florida! Bit of a dark horse. But how does a religious day become an excuse to drink green beer?

7. Alcohol Free Holy Day to Beer Binge Holiday

Well, it wasn’t always. At least in Ireland. St. Patrick’s day was a religious holiday until 1903, when it became a National Holiday. But it was still celebrated somberly. It wasn’t until 1970, in fact, that pubs were even allowed to open on St. Patrick’s day. Only in the last few decades have festivities in Ireland begun to match our debauched idea of the holiday. Which, interestingly, might be an American creation.

8. Parades in America not Ireland

Parades have been held in NYC since 1762, and they’ve always been less religious and more celebratory in nature. A way for the Irish American community to commemorate their roots. It’s no surprise that the festivities in the US were quite different than those in Ireland. And it’s no surprise American Irish traditions have influenced the rest of the world because…

9. The American Irish community is huge!

There are 32.3 million U.S. residents with Irish ancestry, about 5 times the current population of Ireland. Counting both The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland together, of course.  Around 10 percent of residents of the United State claim Irish ancestry. Which about doubles to 20 percent in Massachusetts. That’s a lot of people to pinch you for not wearing green. On that note.

10. Chicago Goes Green

Since 1962, Chicago has been turning its river green for St. Patrick’s day. The eco-friendly vegetable-based dye turns the Chicago River into a sight to remember. Take that New York and Boston. But we should set the record straight about this whole green thing.

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