St Patrick’s Day today: Who was Ireland's patron saint? Why wear green? Why do you pinch someone?

He is believed to have died on March 17 - the day now celebrated annually in his memory

Matt Payton
Friday 17 March 2017 09:00 GMT
Five things you didn't know about St Patrick's Day

St Patrick’s Day - For many people around the world it means felt leprechaun costumes, slanderous stereotypes and Guinness shirt stains.

However, March 17 only recently became synonymous with parades, painfully pun cocktails and green rivers.

To get the skinny on this annual Irish celebration – here are four key questions we all want to know the answer to.

1) Who was St Patrick?

Little is known about St Patrick but according to folklore – He was probably born in Wales around 387AD before being kidnapped by Irish pirates aged 14.

As the legend dictates, St Patrick became an enslaved pig and sheep herder.

Accordingly he was returned to Wales by kind sailors aged 20. It was then he allegedly received a divine vision from God calling on him to become the ‘Voice of Ireland’.

On returning to Ireland as a free man, he evangelised converting thousands of pagans to Christianity and establishing churches.

Other legends surround St Patrick include banishing all snakes from the island –this is in fact an allegory of his struggles against the Druids.

He is traditionally thought to have died on March 17 – explaining the choice of date.

2) Why do we pinch people on March 17?

Pinching people on St Patrick’s day is thought to revolve around the leprechaun and the legend that wearing green makes one invisible to the mischievous fairies.

As the dubious legend dictates, leprechauns would pinch anyone not wearing green – so people pinch those not wearing green to remind them…

3) What is the importance of shamrocks?

This tradition goes back to St Patrick himself. The Patron saint is purported to have used the three leafed shamrock as an illustration of the Holy Trinity.

Enda Kenny teaches US reporter how to say 'Taoiseach'.

4) Why do people wear green?

Ignoring the leprechaun thing – the Irish connection to the colour green is thought to only go back as far as the late 18th century, reports Time.

Green became synonymous with the non-sectarian Irish republican cause and wearing the colour on March 17th first became a tradition in 19th century New York among the growing Irish immigrant population.

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