I do not understand why otherwise normal, sane people suddenly start talking in Irish accents on a certain day each year, drink Guinness and Irish whisky and start wearing green. Sure to be sure, that day is St Patrick’s Day, when both Irish and non-Irish alike go a bit gaga. A bit like Melbourne Cup day when people who know nothing about horses and racing, and who couldn’t care less about them for the rest of the year, suddenly start organising sweeps and assessing the field for a winner. Still, they’re harmless bits of fun and any excuse for a pissup, at least for some.
So here is some St Patrick’s Day trivia . .
St Patrick's Day is a global celebration of Irish culture on or around March 17. It particularly remembers St Patrick, one of Ireland's patron saints, who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century.
Saint Patrick was not Irish.
- Born in Great Britain, when he was 16 he was kidnapped by pirates and held in captivity in Ireland for six years. During this time he found religion, which helped him survive and eventually escape.
- He returned to Ireland a few years later as a Christian missionary.
St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17th each year because St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD.
The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade. . .
- Boston is arguably the most Irish city in the US.
- According to legend, the earliest celebration of the holiday in America took place in Boston in 1737, when colonists of Irish descent marked the event with a modest parade. Thereafter parades continued to be held.
- New Yorkers also claim the honour of the first St Patrick’s Day parade . . .
- It is said that on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Irish soldiers serving in the British army marched to honor the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, their country’s patron saint. With Irish immigrants flocking to the United States, and in large numbers to New York, in the mid-19th century, the parade became an annual tradition and spread elsewhere in the country.
- In 1891 in Boston, the Ancient Order of Hibernians adopted the familiar parade route, the march up Fifth Avenue, which it still follows today. And other practices, such as the banning of wagons and floats, also became standard. The parade as it exists today is essentially the same as it would have been in the 1890s, with many thousands of people marching, accompanied by bagpipe bands as well as brass bands.
- The Boston parade is listed as the second largest parade in the country, drawing between 600,000 and 1 million people each year.
John & Jacqueline Kennedy, Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade 1958
Chicago dyes its river green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
As part of a more than fifty-year-old Chicago tradition, the Chicago River is dyed green in observance of St. Patrick's Day. The tradition of dyeing the river green arose by accident when plumbers used fluorescein dye to trace sources of illegal pollution discharges. The dyeing of the river is still sponsored by the local plumbers union. The United States Environmental Protection Agency outlawed the use of fluorescein for this purpose, since it was shown to be harmful to the river. The parade committee has since switched to a mix involving powdered vegetable dye.
In 2009 First Lady Michelle Obama, a Chicago native, requested that the White House fountains be dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
Leprechauns are actually fairies/shoemakers in Irish folklore.
A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If captured by a human, they often grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Leprechaun-like creatures rarely appear in Irish mythology and only became prominent in later folklore. Modern depictions of leprechauns are largely based on derogatory 19th-century caricatures and stereotypes of the Irish.
If you’ve never seen it, watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People, featuring a very young Sean Connery.
The shamrock’s three leaves are meant to represent the Holy Trinity.
The national symbol for Saint Patrick’s Day is a three-leaf shamrock. According to legend, Saint Patrick used shamrocks to teach children about the Holy Trinity.
St Patrick did not really drive the snakes out of Ireland.
Although legend says that he did, there were actually no snakes in Ireland. The snake reference is considered a metaphorical explanation for St. Patrick driving evil and paganism out of Ireland.
The original colour for St Patrick’s Day was blue.
The Order of St. Patrick, established in 1783, selected blue as its colour because dark green was already taken. Green became popular with the 1798 Irish Rebellion when wearing a clover on a lapel became a sign.
The Celtic harp is a national symbol of Ireland, making it the only country to have a musical instrument as a national symbol.
Criticism . . .
In recent decades, St Patrick's Day celebrations have been criticised, particularly for their association with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Some argue that the festivities have become too commercialised. St Patrick's Day celebrations have also been criticised for fostering demeaning stereotypes of Ireland and Irish people. An example is the wearing of 'leprechaun outfits', which are based on derogatory 19th century caricatures of the Irish. In the run up to St Patrick's Day 2014, the Ancient Order of Hibernians successfully campaigned to stop major American retailers from selling novelty merchandise that promoted negative Irish stereotypes.
Some have described St Patrick's Day celebrations outside Ireland as displays of "Plastic Paddyness"; where foreigners appropriate and misrepresent Irish culture, claim Irish identity, and enact Irish stereotypes.
LGBT groups in the US were banned from marching in St. Patrick's Day parades in New York City and Boston, resulting in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual Group of Boston*. In New York City, the ban was lifted in 2014, but LGBT groups still find that barriers to participation exist. In Boston, the ban on LGBT group participation was lifted in 2015.
* The Court ruled that private organisations, even if they were planning on and had permits for a public demonstration, were permitted to exclude groups if those groups presented a message contrary to the one the organizing group wanted to convey. Addressing the specific issues of the case, the Court found that private citizens organizing a public demonstration may not be compelled by the state to include groups who impart a message the organizers do not want to be presented by their demonstration, even if the intent of the state was to prevent discrimination.