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Interesting St. Patrick’s Day Facts

Coming up on March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, a day renowned for Irish pride, wearing green, drinking, shamrocks, and leprechauns. But how much do you actually know about the real St. Patrick and the day associated with him? In the spirit of the season, here are some interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day, and the myths, legends and facts surrounding this figure.

Although for many St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with Irish pride, St. Patrick was not actually Irish at all. He was likely born in Wales to Roman parents, and his name was Maewyn Succat. When he became a priest he took the name Patricius. He travelled to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity in 432 CE. Incidentally the shamrocks that are used to symbolize this holiday were purportedly used by St. Patrick to explain the concept of the Christian Trinity to the Irish.

St. Patrick is purported to have banished the “snakes,” from Ireland. As snakes are a symbol of the Celtic Pagan religion, this is often interpreted as St. Patrick suppressing Irish Paganism in the process of converting the country to Christianity. (Not to mention the fact that Ireland’s cold climate is inhabitable for most literal snakes.) Some Pagans have reclaimed this day as “All Snakes Day” and use it to celebrate their religion and remember the injustices done to Irish Pagans.

Ironically, though St. Patrick’s mission was to spread Christianity, the leprechauns which we now associate with his feast day are actually thought to be remnants of Irish Paganism and represent Pagan spirits or deities.

Though St. Patrick’s Day is now used for many as an excuse to drink, it actually used to be a strictly sober holiday as it was an important religious occasion on which pubs were closed. St. Patrick’s Day as we now know it originated with Irish-Americans celebrating their ethnic heritage and culture, and it was not until it was made into a national holiday in 1970 that it became the lively festival we know it as today.

Additionally, it has not always been traditional to wear green on March 17th. Green only became associated with St. Patrick’s Day after the day was linked to the movement for Irish independence in the 18th century. Prior to that, St. Patrick was associated with the colour blue.

St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 which makes this March 17th the 1, 554th anniversary of his death.   

To learn more facts about St. Patrick’s  day click here 


Jacqueline Marchioni is a fifth year Honours English major and a Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice minor.
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