From Alexander the Great to Buddhist monks, from radioactive clones
How much do you know about St. Patrick’s Day? You wear green, you drink Guinness, you don’t go anywhere near New York’s Times Square no matter what. (Trust me.) If you want to delve a bit more in depth, here are some surprising facts about St. Patrick and his special day.
1. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was born into a Roman family living in Wales or Scotland in 385 A.D. So then he moved to Ireland to spread Christianity, right? Well, sure, eventually. But first…
2. He came to Ireland as a slave. At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish Celts and held in Ireland until he managed to escape at age 22. When he returned to England, he moved into a monastery where he lived until he began hearing voices which told him to return to Ireland.
3. Those snakes you’ve heard about were probably fictional. Or a metaphor. Or something. Patrick is famous for driving the snakes out of Ireland. The thing is, there’s no evidence that snakes ever lived in Ireland in the first place, which is likely too cold a climate for them to exist.
4. St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always about the beer. The beer industry may make out like Celtic bandits nowadays on St. Patrick’s Day, but from 1903 to 1970, it was an official religious holiday in Ireland, meaning all pubs were shut down for the day.
5. St. Patrick himself was a fan of “the hard stuff.” He once publicly berated a bartender who favored a weak pour.
6. The four-leaf clover may be lucky, but the three-leaf clover was Patrick’s favorite. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the idea of the Holy Trinity to the Irish. This seems insultingly simplistic, so hopefully this story is as literal as those snakes he fought off.
7. Not all St. Patrick’s Day parades are created equal. Boston, Dublin, New York, and other major cities have huge spectacular parades, but the day’s shortest parade is in Dripsey, Cork, Ireland, and runs a length of about 26 meters.
8. You can blame leprechauns for that horrible pinching tradition. The story goes that leprechauns will pinch anyone they could get their fingers on, but green somehow makes you invisible to them.
9. There’s no reason to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. The color originally associated with Patrick was blue. Green was attached to the holiday later on, possibly because of the greenness of Ireland’s countryside, possibly because of the 18th Century Irish rebels who wore green to draw attention to their cause… possibly for no reason at all.