St Patrick’s Day 2016: Six things you (probably) didn’t know about 17 March

The Emerald Isle’s patron saint was not actually from Ireland

Green wasn’t St Patrick’s colour

Despite the green hats, green clothes, green face paint and green pints, St Patrick did not wear green himself. His vestments were blue, though a green shamrock or ribbon is understood to have been worn on St Patrick’s day since the 1680s.

The shamrock is still a significant symbol for St Patrick, however, as he used it to explain the Holy Trinity to his converts, with one leaf each symbolising the father, the son and the holy spirit.

Ireland isn’t the biggest consumer of Guinness

The Emerald Isle is not the biggest consumer of Guinness, and neither is America; it’s Nigeria. Of the total worldwide consumption of Guinness, 40 per cent of it is in Africa, where three of the five Guinness-owned breweries are stationed.

Not everyone celebrates it the same way

Corned beef? Everyone eats that on St Patrick’s Day, right? Not really. That’s more of a US thing where corned beef and cabbage (multiple ways) is the dish of choice on 17 March.

In Ireland, well, it’s pretty much Guinness.

St Patrick wasn’t Irish

That’s right, the Emerald Isle’s patron saint was not actually from Ireland. He was born either in England, Scotland or Wales, but not Ireland. Despite this, it is not possible to call St Patrick British either, as the British Isles was under Roman occupation at the time of his birth, thought to be around 390 AD.

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A marching band celebrates at a London parade for Saint Patrick's Day

It is unknown as to whether St Patrick’s parents were Celtic or Roman – some accounts claim he was from Roman aristocracy – but he is believed to have been captured at the age of 16 and taken to Ireland as a slave.  He eventually escaped, but later returned to Ireland to convert the Celtic Pagans to Christianity.

It’s unlikely St Patrick rid Ireland of its snakes…

…mainly because there were no snakes in Ireland in the first place.

St Patrick is supposed to have delivered a dramatic sermon while stood on a hilltop, causing all the snakes on the island to be driven into the sea. But snakes are not thought to have naturally existed in Ireland – the story is instead thought to have been created to symbolise St Patrick’s driving out of Pagan practices from the country.

The first St Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland

The first St Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737, the result of Irish immigrants celebrating their home country, culture and pride in their heritage, an event which has now been transformed into annual parades in New York, Boston and Dublin.

A version of this article was originally published on 12 March 2015

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