Shamrocks, Green Rivers & Pots of Gold

by Mar 15, 2019Brunswick County Life

Why we do what we do on St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is an unofficial holiday full of green-themed fun. But why do we celebrate it and what exactly are we celebrating?

Who the heck is Patrick and why does he have his own day?
St. Patrick was Ireland’s foremost patron saint. He lived from AD 385 to 461. Although it is not clear if he died in Ireland or not, March 17 is believed to be the day of St. Patrick’s death. March 17 was declared a national holiday in Ireland in 1903.

Why is the shamrock a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day?
The shamrock is a famous symbol of Ireland. Here’s a fun fact: Shamrock means “little clover” in Gaelic. Shamrocks are clovers, but not all clovers are shamrocks. Clovers typically have three leaves. St. Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock as a teaching tool, saying that the leaves of the shamrock represented Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Only about one in 10,000 clover plants grow four leaflets, which is why they are considered lucky. If you’ve ever found one, lucky you!

Why the green?
Believe it or not, blue was the original color used to represent St. Patrick’s Day. In the 18th century, light blue became associated with the Order of St. Patrick’s to create a shade of blue that was different than the royal blue associated with the English. It is said that the green began to emerge from the blue because of Ireland’s nickname — “Emerald Island.” Green also emerged to be a St. Patrick’s Day color from the green stripe in the flag. Orange and white are also said to have an impact on the colors used for St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally, green represents the Catholics of Ireland.

Whose idea was it to dye Chicago River green?
Although an Irish holiday, Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by drinking, staging parades and other outlandish acts. In 1762 the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was celebrated in New York. In 1961 Stephen Bailey, a business manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union, thought it would be a good idea to dye the Chicago River green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and since then the river has gone green every year to celebrate the holiday. Forty pounds of a vegetable-based, environmentally friendly dye is used to turn the river green.

What is the official beer of St. Patrick’s Day?
Many would argue that it’s Guinness. Typically, Americans consume about 600,000 pints of Guinness, a Dublin-based beer, a year. On St. Patrick’s Day, they consume 13 million pints of Guinness. This is according to Guinness in an email to USA TODAY Network.

Are leprechauns real?
You can’t think about St. Patrick’s Day without leprechauns coming to mind. What are leprechauns? How did they become associated with St. Patrick’s Day? Since Ireland was known as the Emerald Island, Irish folklore deemed the land to have “fairy powers.” In the folklore, leprechauns were shoe-makers who would hide the money they made in pots that were located at the end of rainbows. Leprechauns are typically described as greedy, little people dressed in green. They placed their pots of gold at the end of a rainbow because it is a location that is out of reach and impossible to find. However, we can’t verify their existence.

Am I going to get pinched?
I’m sure you have heard that if you don’t wear any green on St. Patrick’s Day you will get pinched. Because green is a color that represents Ireland, it is considered shameful to not wear green on the holiday. Wear your green on Sunday, March 17, for a pinch-free day!

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