17 March is St Patrick’s Day and while most of the world will raise a pint in celebration, many of us (including me before this article) don’t know the first thing about ol’ Paddy.
Irish but British?
Believe it or not, Paddy wasn’t actually Irish at all. He was born in Britain around AD 397 and was captured by Irish pagans when he was just a teenager. After six years of enslavement, he escaped and eventually returned home and became a devout Christian. Legend has it that he was told in a dream to return to Ireland and convert the Irish to Christianity. In less than 30 years he achieved his goal and today he is the patron saint of Ireland.
Snake wrangler or tall tale?
When St Patrick returned on his holy mission to Ireland he drove all of the snakes into the sea. Sounds crazy right? That’s because it is. Ireland is one of the few places in the world where snakes have never existed. It’s surrounded by too much cold water making it impossible for snakes to make the migration. The myth is more likely a parable for how St Patrick converted the pagans, who often used the serpent as a symbol, to Christianity.
Blue or green?
It seems strange to think that Ireland’s colour could be anything other than green with its rolling hills, but a light blue was the original colour of St Patrick’s Day. It was replaced with green when the clover became the national symbol during the 1798 Irish Rebellion against British rule. Blue may have fallen out of favour but it can still be found on the Irish coat of arms.
Why green beer?
Green beer might be the single most polarising thing about St Paddy’s Day. Some love it and some hate it but you can’t deny it’s a trend that is here to stay. The funny thing is that the traditional green beer isn’t even an Irish invention. According to popular belief, we have an American to thank for that and more specifically one, Dr Thomas Hayes Curtin who unveiled his concoction around 1914. The tradition stuck and you’re sure to find a pint of green gold at your local this St Paddy’s Day.
Why celebrate with beer and food?
St Patrick’s Day was traditionally a feasting and drinking day that was held on the anniversary of his death. Even though it falls during the Catholic period of Lent, many Christians choose to break their 40 day fast in honour of St Patrick.
Bonus fact: Maewyn who?
Maewyn Succat was birth name of St Patrick. After becoming a priest, he changed his name to Patrick which comes from the Latin term for “father figure”.