8 odd facts about St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is a time of celebration, one of the few days when it’s socially acceptable to get completely blitzed, stumble around in the streets like an extra in a zombie movie and then vomit in the neighbor’s rose bushes. But while you’re busy waging war on your liver, try to remember that there is more to St. Patrick’s Day then just mindless drunken tomfoolery. Yes, I know it’s hard, but here are some things to get you started down the road of knowledge. Who knows? They might just save your life. Or at least help you win a bar bet. Same thing, really. They are eight odd facts about St. Patrick’s Day.

8. St. Patrick was actually a Roman

Most historians agree that St. Patrick actually came from a colonial Roman family living in Britain, sort of like how the first Pilgrims were actually English, which would make the native Celts kind of like the Indians. The story goes that St. Patrick was actually kidnapped by the Irish Celts and then enslaved. He eventually escaped and then he started hearing voices in his head and since this was the dark ages he naturally assumed it was God and people went along with it because they didn’t know you could just accuse someone like that of being on drugs. They were simpler times. The voices told St. Patrick to return to Ireland and spread the good news and tame the heathens. So, all in all, it’s just your basic story of a colonial empire emissary helping to obliterate a native culture all while hearing voices in his head like some sort of medieval Charles Manson. Drink up!

7. Blue was the original color to be associated with St. Patrick

For centuries both St. Patrick and Ireland were closely associated with the color blue, not green like everyone assumes. I’m sure there’s a weird story that explains it involving snakes, a chieftain’s daughter and blue balls, but the important thing to remember is that everything Irish and St. Patrick was all blue. Eventually, green took over. No one is entirely sure why. It’s possible that it was because people started wearing green shamrocks in their hair and on their clothes during the 19th century, but the most striking historical example of green’s rise to power took place during the 1798 Irish rebellion when local soldiers dressed all in green on St. Patrick’s Day in order to draw attention to their cause. After that, it would seem that green gradually grew more and more to be associated with Ireland and St. Patrick until finally it eclipsed blue completely. Or maybe it was all a really elaborate marketing campaign by McDonald’s in order to push the Shamrock Shake 200 years later. Who knows?

6. St. Patrick taught the Irish about Christianity using a shamrock

The reason the shamrock is so important to both Ireland and the St. Patrick story is because legend has it that St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity to the native Celts using the three-leafed shamrock, which honestly kind of makes the Celts look like simpletons, learning by staring at pretty flowers, but we’ll let that slide. It’s a good thing he never used the four-leaf clover to teach them, otherwise he would have had to invent a fourth version of God aside from the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I mean, the Holy Spirit already involved ghosts so I’m not sure how much further he could have taken the story. Vampires, maybe?

5. St. Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday in only three countries

Ireland is obviously one of them. But the other two are a little more obscure. The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is one, which okay, sure. But the third seems pretty out there. The Caribbean island of Montserrat also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as an official public holiday which might seem completely bizarre until you realize that the island nation was founded by Irish settlers. In addition, March 17th is a notable day in Montserrat because it is the anniversary of a failed slave uprising, which honestly just seems like it would make the day really, really confusing. But any excuse to get drunk and stay home from work, right?

4. It’s also National Muay Thai Day

In Thailand, March 17th is also National Muay Thai Day, a day when the people all get together and watch Bloodsport. I’m assuming anyway. But really, celebrating a martial art in which people run around punching and kicking each other on the same day everyone is getting drunk seems like kind of a bad idea. Then again, getting hilariously drunk and fighting is basically all in the average day for the people of Bangkok, which they fit in between frequenting opium dens and all the human sex trafficking, at least according to broad, vaguely racist stereotypes and hey, isn’t that what St. Patrick’s Day is all about?

3. The shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade is in Dripsey, Cork, Ireland

Everyone knows about the big-time St. Patrick’s Day parades. In Chicago they even dye the river green and Dublin has an entire festival which lasts a week and draws over a million tourists. But most people probably don’t know that the smallest St. Patrick’s Day parade is in a little town called Dripsey in Southern Ireland. It lasts just 23 meters and takes place in between the town’s two pubs. Or at least it used to. Unfortunately, one of the pubs closed in 2007 which means that the parade is probably now even shorter, covering the distance between a bar stool and the nearest toilet.

2. The Church lifts Lenten restrictions on alcohol and eating

People forget, but St. Patrick’s Day is also a religious holiday – you know, on account of all the converting? And since it also falls during Lent, the Church allows its followers to basically take the day off to get shitfaced and to gorge themselves on the finest meats in all the land. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.

1. Guinness cashes in…a lot

Guinness and St. Patrick’s Day go hand in hand. It’s basically the official beer of St. Patrick’s Day. If you don’t believe me, just ask a professor I had in college who showed up to class on St. Patrick’s Day with Guinness for the whole class. We just sat there and drank for an hour and half of us weren’t even twenty-one. Because of heroes like that, it’s estimated that more than thirteen million pints of Guinness will be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day. It is, after all, the reason for the season.

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Irish Waitress Image by Shutterstock
JCVD: YouTube
Guinness image: m_p_king, Flickr
(Previously published on March 13, 2013.)