What’s not to love about St. Patrick’s Day? You get to wear green–the go-to color for the holiday–drink green beverages, eat green foods, and celebrate St. Patrick, a man you vaguely understand to have saved the Emerald Isle from snakes.
Stop right there. None of the above is based on anything remotely close to fact. Learn the real story behind St. Patrick’s Day below! You’ll still be able to eat, drink, and merry your way through the holiday–just armed with a little more truth than fiction. And if you really want to do the day up right? Check out our assortment of Celtic-inspired jewelry that’s sure to show your Irish pride.
Note: this is not St. Patrick. No known images of the man exist. So we went with a gratuitous shot of an adorable puppy.
St. Patrick was not Irish
The young man was born in either Scotland, England, or Wales–the experts cannot agree on which one. But they see eye-to-eye on the fact that all three countries were under Roman rule at the time of Patrick’s birth, roughly 390. So, he was either British, or, if his parents hailed from modern-day Italy, Roman. But most definitely not Irish.
St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland
Ireland, though lush and green, is far too cold and soggy for snakes. It’s surrounded by water–making it impossible for the slithery fellows to travel to the fair isle’s shores. And before the last glacial period it was covered in ice. Most agree that the snakes represent those who followed the pagan belief system which dominated Ireland before Christianity’s push to eradicate all non-believers.
Green is the color of St. Patrick’s Day
Actually, knights in the order of St. Patrick wore a special blue shade known as “St. Patrick’s blue,” which makes the confusion seem pretty senseless. Nevertheless, experts believe the holiday took on the green hue in the 18th century when supporters of Irish Independence co-opted the color for their cause.
Well-known St. Patrick’s Day traditions have their roots in Ireland
Not so. Until the 1700s, the holiday in Ireland was a Roman Catholic to-do spent in church or at home in quiet contemplation. All of that began to change as scores of Irish left for America where they instituted parades and celebrations to show their pride. Parties joined the effort, including mass consumption of corned beef and cabbage. Speaking of which, see below!
Corned Beef and Cabbage is the unofficial meal of St. Patrick’s Day
Well, it might be. That doesn’t mean that it should be, though. A type of ham similar to corned beef is the meat to eat in Ireland. But in the late 19th Century, Irish immigrants bought corned beef on New York’s Lower East Side because it was cheaper than the pork they’d enjoyed in their homeland.
St. Patrick and lucky four-leaf clovers go hand-in-hand
Nope. St. Patrick used a three-leaf clover to teach the native Celts about the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. Not sure what he would have done with a fourth leaf, considering he only had the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to work with. But he was a saint after all. Or was he?
St. Patrick was, well, a saint
Wrong again. Before the 10th Century, saints were chosen not by the Vatican, but at a local level with dioceses deciding which of their men deserved the honor. At some point, the pope put an end to this and the Catholic church accepted all on the honor system, slipping St. Patrick in even though he’d never been canonized.