The Blarney Behind St. Patrick's Day
What do you really know about the Irish holiday?
St. Patrick's Day is a widely celebrated holiday in the United States. It's a day where everybody is Irish, regardless of heritage. It's a day where everybody wears green for fear of being pinched.
But did you know that the Irish holiday began in America, not Ireland? Here are a few other tidbits about St. Patrick's Day you might not have known.
History behind the Holiday
St. Patrick wasn’t Irish
The man whom the holiday honors was born in Britain in the third century. He was kidnapped as a teenager and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved and forced to work as a shepherd. He eventually escaped, and returned home, but legend says he heard a heavenly voice commanding him to return to Ireland and convert the people to Christianity.
There were never snakes in Ireland
Legend credits St. Patrick with banishing snakes from Ireland by chasing them into the sea after they assailed him during a 40 day fast. However, all evidence suggests that Ireland never had any snakes because, as an island, snakes were unable to migrate across open ocean.
First St. Patrick's Day held in New York, not Ireland
Colonial New York City hosted the first official St. Patrick's Day parade in 1762, when Irish immigrants in the British colonial army marched down city streets to reconnect with their Irish heritage.
St. Patrick's Day: a minor religious holiday in Ireland
St. Patrick's Day did not become a national holiday in Ireland until 1903 and the first parade wasn't held in Dublin until 1931. It was originally a minor religious holiday, where a Catholic priest would acknowledge the feast day and families would celebrate with a big meal.
Green vs. Orange
On St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, Protestants wear orange, while Catholics wear green. In many communities in Ireland, wearing the wrong color would be like wearing the wrong gang color in the wrong neighborhood.
There is a long history of violence between Irish Catholics and Protestants. When Ireland split into Northern Ireland and Ireland, the colors orange and green continued as symbols of loyalties. The Irish flag shows these conflicts, as it is composed of three stripes, the Orange for Irish Protestants, the Green for Irish Catholics, and the White stripe representing the hope for peace between them.