Everything you thought you knew about St. Patrick and the Irish tradition of St. Patrick’s Day is probably all wrong. Proud of your Irish heritage? Test your knowledge by counting how many of the following 7 shocking facts you know about St. Patrick and Ireland.
1. St. Patrick was not Irish
That’s right. He wasn’t Irish, nor was he born in Ireland. St. Patrick was born in 385 AD in Scotland or Wales. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a Catholic priest in what us now England.
2. St. Patrick was a slave
When he was 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders (pirates!) and sold as a slave in Ireland. He remained a captive for six years, working as a shepard. At the age of 22, he managed to escape. He made his way to a monastery in England where he spent 12 years.
3. Patrick’s color is blue
Blue, not green, is the original color associated with St. Patrick and is used in several artworks during the time of Henry VIII depicting the saint. Green was associated with the country later, presumably because of the greenness of the countryside, which is so because Ireland receives plentiful rainfall. Today, the country is also referred to as the “Emerald Isle.”
4. The Shamrock is not the symbol of Ireland
The shamrock is a popular Irish symbol, but it is not the symbol of Ireland. Since the medieval period, the harp has represented the nation. King Henry VIII used the harp on coins as early as 1534. Later, the harp was used on Irish flags and Irish coats of arms. The harp was also used as a symbol of the Irish people during their long struggle for freedom. When Ireland became an independent country in 1921, it adopted the harp as the national symbol.
5. There are more Irish in the USA than Ireland
Kind of. Around 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry. Some are pure-blood Irish, but most have mixed ancestry. By contrast, there are 4.2 million people living in Ireland. During the potato famine in Ireland, millions of Irish left the country for the US. It wasn’t until the economic boom of the 1990s that more Irish stayed in their native country than traveled abroad searching for better opportunities.
6. St. Patrick’s Day was a dry holiday in Ireland until 1970
From 1903 to 1970, Irish law declared St. Patrick’s Day a religious observance for the entire country-meaning that all pubs were shut down for the day. That meant alcohol for public celebrations. The law was overturned in 1970, when St. Patrick’s was reclassified as a national holiday.
Related Post: 11 Places You Can’t Miss When Visiting Ireland
7. Four-leaf clovers don’t actually bring you good luck.
They’re just hard to find. Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 5,000. And, that isn’t the most leaves a clover can get. In 2009, a man in Japan found a clover with 56 leaves!