The weirdest and most wonderful facts about Ireland's national holiday, St. Patrick's Day, we could find.
St. Patrick's Day is all about the Irish and our beautiful country Ireland but did you know that there are many aspects of the big day that we can not claim as our own invention? Such as the St. Patrick's Day parade phenomenon, for instance?
To get you up to date with all the weirdest and most wonderful St. Patrick's day facts, here are IrishCentral's top strangest titbits about our patron saint to have you all caught up on your St. Patrick's trivia by March 17.
The Irish can’t claim credit for the invention of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
The world’s first recorded Saint Patrick's Day Parade took place in Boston on March 18, 1737, followed by the New York Parade, which first took place in 1762.
Ireland took over a century to jump on the parade float with the rest of the world and only had their first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin in 1931.
This St. Patrick’s Day we’ll all be wearing green, but shouldn’t it be blue
The original color associated with St. Patrick was blue but because the Saint preached about the Holy Trinity through the symbol of the shamrock and the Irish ‘little folk’ were also associated with green, it became the most common shade in connection with him.
Parade committee organizers across the world wouldn’t take too kindly to us changing the color, so maybe we’ll leave it at green for now.
100 lbs. of green dye was poured into the Chicago River in honor of St. Patrick’s Day
In 1961, business manager of Chicago’s Journeymen Plumbers Local Union, Stephen Bailey, received permission to turn the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day.
Due to uncertainties about the amount of dye it would take to turn the river green, a massive 100 lbs of vegetable dye was used in comparison to the 25 lbs used today.
The Chicago River stayed green for a full week.
Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland
… and not a snake in sight. Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland but in fact, Ireland never had any snakes as the weather was too miserable for the cold-blooded reptiles.
The banished snakes were thought to be symbolic of the pagan druid priests with whom Patrick might have had a few issues to iron out.
George Washington ordered that “St. Patrick” be the response to the password “Boston” on Evacuation Day
On Evacuation Day, March 17, 1776, the General Orders issued by Washington were that those wishing to pass through Continental Army lines should give the password “Boston,” to which the reply should be “St. Patrick.”
The resting place of Saint Patrick
Though never fully proven, Down Cathedral in the town of Downpatrick, Co Down, is thought to contain St. Patrick’s remains and, according to legend, he lies beside Saints Columcille and Brigit.
Apparently, he’s missing a few things like a jaw and a tooth, but these can be seen in Dublin Museum.
Saint Patrick’s Relics
A few of the Saint’s relics can still be viewed in Ireland today: St. Patrick’s Bell and shrines of the Saint’s jaw and tooth can be viewed in Dublin in the National Museum, while Patrick’s copy of the four gospels is held at the The Royal Irish Academy.
Saint Patrick’s Crozier, with which he banished the imaginary snakes, was venerated for centuries in Dublin's Christ Church only to be publicly burned in 1538 under the orders of the archbishop, George Browne.
Sounds like George had a few issues too.
Drink, drink, and yet more drink!
The global corporate-relations director of Guinness says 5.5 million pints of Guinness are sold on any given day, but this figure rises to an astounding 13 million on St. Patrick’s Day. We've come a long way from the days when all the pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick's Day!
IBISWorld also reports that Saint Patrick’s Day 2012 brought in $245 million in beer sales.
Who’s up for making March 18 into International Hangover Day?
The Royal Dublin Dog Show was the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day
Due to strict laws on the curtailment of sales of alcohol on Holy Days in Ireland, from 1927 to 1961, the only place a thirsty Irish person could legally get a drink on Paddy’s day was at The Royal Dublin Dog Show.
One TD was reported to complain that it was a grand occasion “except for all the dogs.”
At the time, the church and state were worried that the Irish would drink too much on the day.
Turns out they were right. Oh well.
And after all that, he’s not even Irish!
Saint Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain at the end of the 4th century AD and taken to Ireland by slavers when he was a teenager.
The exact place of his birth is debatable as some say Scotland and some say Wales but, either way, he’s Irish now.
*Originally published in March 2014, last updated in March 2021.