Top ten facts you never knew about St. Patrick’s Day

How much do you know about St. Patrick's Day?

St. Patrick’s Day is the one day a year where everyone is a little bit Irish. In fact, 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 are our ten top facts:

1. St. Patrick was not Irish. He was from Wales.

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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 the 1760s.

Ancient Order of the Hibernians calls out Bed, Bath and Beyond for "denigration of Irish Americans though stereotyping" with anit-Irish merchandise.

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.

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5. For many years, Dripsey in County Cork had the world’s shortest parade, just 77 feet, the distance between two pubs – The Weigh Inn and The Lee Valley. Currently, the town of Hot Springs, AR claims to have the shortest parade – a 98 foot 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 200th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Day there. In Sydney, St Patrick’s Day was first marked in 1810, when Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales, provided entertainment for Irish convict workers.

7. Irish flee the country. In Ireland on March 17 you’ll find many public figures, musicians, and dancers have traveled 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.

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9. Traditionally, every year, the Irish leader hands a crystal bowl full of shamrock to the US President. The shamrock, grown in Kerry, is immediately destroyed by the Secret Service after the exchange.

President Obama with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the White House last year.

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 in February 2012.

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