St. Patricks Day is today! As such, celebrations are taking place around the world and likely include beer and the color green — and sometimes those two things combined.
But despite the known traditions like wearing green, drinking beer, searching for four-leaf clovers, and trying to catch leprechauns, there are also several less-known facts about the Irish day of celebration.
1. Despite the Irish roots of the holiday, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston.
That’s right. On March 17, 1737, the city of Boston, Massachusetts chose to celebrate its heritage in a unique way. The original parade didn’t have motorized floats or huge balloons or probably even immodestly dressed women. But it did go down in the history books.
2. St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because it is the feast day of St. Patrick.
This one may be a little more easy to recognize. St. Patty’s Day is meant to celebrate (who else) the patron saint of Ireland. He is believed to have died on March 17, 461. As such, it is only right to celebrate the saint’s death-day with a celebration. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland. It is also a provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
3. A leprechaun is hoarding one gold coin for each day it has lived.
So, let’s face it. There has been no documented, tangible proof that leprechauns exist. But when has that stopped people from believing in something? So, as the legend goes, if you find a leprechaun’s pot of gold, you will also discover how old he (or she?) is.
4. Dying the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day was initially an accident.
Oops? Apparently some plumbers were using fluorescein dye to trace the source of illegal pollution dumping in the river more than 50 years ago. In response to the dye, the river turned bright green — on St. Patty’s Day. The city apparently loved the coincidence so much that they have been honoring the tradition since then. The local plumbers union still sponsors the dyeing of the Chicago River.
5. “Drowning The Shamrock” is the tradition of floating a shamrock in one’s whiskey, then drinking it.
So if you can find a shamrock and plan to drink whiskey tonight, this one’s for you! The Irish custom is exactly as it sounds. Find yourself a shamrock and float it on top of your shot of Jameson (or another whiskey, but try to make it Irish, okay?). Then, drink the whole thing down. If you keep this custom on March 17, the Irish believe you will have a prosperous year.
6. The color of St. Patrick is blue, not green.
Green didn’t become associated with St. Patrick’s Day until the 19th century. In Irish legends, the color now associated with March 17 was worn by fairies and immortals. It was also worn by people to encourage their crops to grow well.
7. The shamrock is really a symbol representing the Trinity.
While it is also associated with good luck, the shamrock was also used by St. Patrick, according to legend, to illustrate God’s presence in the natural world. The patron saint explained that each leaf represented one of the trinity — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
8. Want that four-leaf clover? Chances are you’ll find one — in 10,000 regular ones.
Unfortunately, if you want to find a real four-leaf clover to decorate your lapel for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll have to either search through a massive clover patch or have an insane amount of luck. The chances of finding a four- (or more) leaf clover are one in 10,000.
9. 34 million people in the United States can claim Irish descent.
Their numbers include Chicago’s mayor. The numbers were taken from the 2003 Census. The current population of Ireland is 4.1 million, making the number of Americans with Irish heritage nine times the number of people who actually live in Ireland.
10. It is tradition in Ireland to wear a bunch of shamrocks on your jacket.
It’s kind of a given, but many people in the country will wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jacket. Children will often wear orange, white, and green badges, while women and girls can be seen with green ribbons in their hair.
So whether it’s a parade, finding that four-leaf clover, or drinking green beer, we hope you enjoy St. Patrick’s Day!