From New York City, to San Francisco, and everywhere in between, St. Patrick’s Day is a popular holiday all across America. Whether you have great grandparents who descended here from Ireland, or just “pretend” to be Irish throughout the month of March, this holiday has a surprising and unknown history. Here are some of the more interesting and surprising origins that drove us bananas.
St. Patrick was actually named Maewyn at birth. He was born in Roman Britain, and was later kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave. He was able to escape to a French monastery and converted to Christianity. He studied in a monastery for 12 years before returning to Ireland.
During St. Patrick’s time, Ireland was a mostly Pagan country. He spent 20 years traveling around Ireland trying to convert others to Christianity. He then became a bishop within the Catholic Church. After his death, he was named as the Patron Saint of Ireland.
The Druids considered this plant sacred because of its three leaves. Three is considered a lucky number in the Celtic religion. St. Patrick used the shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity when he traveled during the fifth century.
By the 19th century, the shamrock took on a completely different meaning. It became a symbol of being against the English and became a part of Irish identity. Anyone in England who would wear a shamrock faced death by hanging.
Leprechauns are mythical creatures that are popular in Irish folklore and tales. They were originally believed to be indigenous to Ireland. The leprechaun was usually depicted as a wealthy, short elderly man. Their stories are usually brief and are based on local names and scenery. Each of these stories focuses on a human hero.
The St Patrick’s Day Parade
The first St. Paddy’s Day Parade actually took place in New York City in 1762. In Ireland, many laborers had a feast honoring St. Patrick on this day. As more Irish immigrants came to New York in following centuries, the celebrations became bigger and then spread to other cities like Chicago and Boston. Today, approximately 150,000 people stroll down Fifth Avenue on March 17.