March 17th is typically associated with the color green, shamrocks and parades, but it is about so much more than these modern traditions. Actually, the history of St. Patrick’s Day dates back more than 1,500 years. Here are a few interesting facts about the happy green holiday.
St. Patrick was born in Britain, not Ireland.
The patron saint of Ireland was actually believed to have been born in Britain near the end of the 4th century, according to historians. Irish raiders kidnapped him when he was 16 and sold him as a slave to a Celtic priest in Ireland. He worked as a slave for nearly 6 years, but escaped back to Britain. Eventually, he returned to Ireland and is credited for bringing Christianity to the Irish people.
There were no snakes for St. Patrick to ban in Ireland.
One of the popular legends surrounding St. Patrick is that he stood on an Irish hillside and banished all serpents from Ireland. However, research suggests that snakes may have never occupied the area in the first place. The country’s fossil record makes no mention of snakes.
The idea of leprechauns may be based on Celtic fairies.
The original Irish name for the folklore character is lobaircin, which means “small-bodied fellow”. Celtic folktales suggest that leprechauns were cranky little souls and mended the shoes of other fairies.
The shamrock was considered a sacred plant.
The three-leaf clover symbolized the arrival of spring in Ireland. St. Patrick used the plant as a visual guide for explaining the Holy Trinity as he was spreading Christianity through the country.
America hosted the first known St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Records show that a St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1601 in a Spanish colony that is now known as St. Augustine, Florida. In the 1700s, homesick Irish soldiers serving the English military marched in Boston and New York City, making the tradition more popular.
Corned beef and cabbage were innovated in America.
This meal is known as a St. Patrick’s Day staple across the country. Corned beef was a cheaper substitute for immigrants as opposed to the ham traditionally eaten in Ireland.
Although St. Patrick is considered the patron saint of Ireland, he was never officially canonized by the Catholic Church. However, his legacy lives on even though traditions may look different than years past.