Regardless of your actual heritage, everyone’s a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.
And while there’s no problem with getting into the festive spirit, you might want to have at least have a few talking points to go with your pints.
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From shamrocks to snakes, Guinness to the Blarney Stone, we’ve rounded up 17 lesser-known facts about the world’s favourite Irish holiday.
St. Patrick didn’t actually wear green
When you head to your local watering hole this St. Patrick’s Day, you may want to leave the green duds behind as St. Patrick actually wore a light shade of blue. It wasn’t until the 1978 Irish Rebellion when the clover became a symbol of nationalism and wearing green on a lapel became the norm, making blue a thing of the past.
St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador
The closest Monday to March 17 is, in fact, a public holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s right, east coasters take St. Paddy’s Day seriously. The only other places that do that are the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the British territory Montserrat.
St. Patrick and the legendary snakes
In Irish lore, Saint Patrick’s claim to fame was driving all the snakes out of Ireland. But scientists say there weren’t any slithering reptiles on the island. Which makes people believe the reference is thought to be a metaphor for St. Patrick converting pagans to Christianity and for being the man who allegedly drove “evil” non-Christians from the land.
The odds of finding a four-leaf clover are not good
You have a 1 in 10,000 chance of finding a four-leaf clover. So you must be lucky if you happen to discover one.
St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish
Although he made his mark by introducing Christianity to Ireland, he was actually born in Britain around the turn of the 4th century.
St. Patrick’s Day actually coincides with the date of St. Patrick’s Death
St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD. So really, we will be celebrating the anniversary of his death.
Chicago celebrates by dying its river green
Around St. Patrick’s Day, the City of Chicago pours 45 pounds of green dye into the Chicago River, turning the usually dark, murky water into an emerald green. This has been a tradition since 1962 and each year over 400,000 spectators watch.
New York City holds one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world
Since 1762, anywhere between 150,000 to 250,000 participants march up Fifth Avenue on foot – the parade still doesn’t allow floats, cars, or other modern trappings. The parade lasts close to six hours and makes a stop at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral along the way.
March 17 is definitely one of the biggest parties of the year
Now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased in many areas, you can expect people to get out for a green beer!
It used to be a dry holiday
For most of the 20th century, Saint Patrick’s Day was considered a religious holiday in Ireland, which meant that the nation’s pubs were closed for business on March 17. In 1970, the day was converted to a national holiday and Guinness has been flowing ever since.
A green pint isn’t Irish
Drinking a green pint on St. Patrick’s Day is not a custom in Ireland, rather a party drink from North America. Plus, if you were wondering, there is no actual green beer, It’s just green food colouring.
People really love Guinness
On March 17, it’s estimated that 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed around the globe.
The world runs up quite the bar tab on St. Patrick’s Day
This year, it’s estimated that $5.87 billion will be spent on St. Patrick’s Day.
There are more Irish people living in the US than in all of Ireland
According to a census, in 2015, 32.7 million US residents claimed their ancestry as Irish. This is more than seven times the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million).
Best way to befriend the Irish
The Irish phrase “Erin go Bragh” means “Ireland forever.” Which is good to know if you want to befriend one of the nation’s countrymen this St. Patrick’s Day.
The truth about the Blarney Stone
Each year, 400,000 visitors line up to kiss the stone wall of in the Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland. Kissing the stone is supposed to give you the “gift of the gab” (great eloquence or skill at flattery). In order to kiss the surface properly, you must lie on a ledge then bend over backward while holding onto rails until your face is level with the stone. Congratulations, you just kissed a surface kissed by hundreds of thousands of others and hurt your neck.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in space
You don’t need to be on land to get into the festive spirit, or even on Earth. Astronauts have celebrated the holiday while in orbit including Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who dressed in green in 2013.