St. Patrick’s Day is the one day a year where everyone is a little bit Irish. In fact, not far off almost 12 percent of Americans claim Irish ancestry and over 80 million people worldwide claim ancestral connection to the auld sod.
With St. Patrick’s Day celebrated across the world, did you ever wonder how much you actually know about Ireland’s biggest national holiday?
Here’s our ten top facts:
1. St. Patrick was not Irish. He was from Wales.
2. The humble shamrock was originally a teaching tool. St. Patrick is said to have used the three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to the pagan Irish.
3. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York in 1766.
4. For many years, blue was the color most often associated with St. Patrick. Green was considered unlucky. St. Patrick’s blue was considered symbolic of Ireland for many centuries and the Irish Presidential Standard is still blue.
5. For many years, Dripsey in County Cork had the world’s shortest parade, just 23.4 metres (77 feet) between two pubs – The Weigh Inn and The Lee Valley. Currently, the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas claims to have the shortest parade – a 30-metre (98 feet) route on Bridge Street. Recent participants included the Irish Elvises and the San Diego Chicken.
6. In 2010, the Sydney Opera House went green to mark the 200 year anniversary of St. Patrick’s Day. In Sydney, St Patrick’s Day was first marked on 17 March 1810, when Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, provided entertainment for Irish convict workers.
7. Irish flee the country. On 17th March in Ireland you’ll find many public figures, musicians and dancers have travelled abroad to work on lucrative gigs elsewhere. Politicians also travel to drum up trade.
8. In Chicago every year, the Plumbers Local 110 union dyes the river “Kelly” green. The dye lasts for about five hours.
9. Traditionally, every year, the Irish leader hands a crystal bowl of shamrocks over to the US President. The shamrock grown in Kerry is immediately destroyed by the Secret Service after the exchange.
10. Guinness sales soar on St. Patrick’s Day. Recent figures show that 5.5 million pints of the black stuff are downed around the world every day. On St. Patrick’s Day that figure is doubled.
*Originally published February 2012