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7 Surprising Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As the Irish saying goes: “There are only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish and those who wish they were.”

Today is a day that we who are Irish celebrate our heritage but did you know that a lot of the things we do to celebrate aren’t really Irish? For instance corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti is Mexican. Mind blowing, huh?

International Business Times dug up some really interesting facts about St. Patrick’s Day. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. The real St. Patrick wasn’t Irish- The real St. Patrick was actually English. He was born in Britain around 350 A.D. Brad Hawkins, a professor of religious studies says St. Patrick was kidnapped around the age of 16 and brought to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. He tended sheep for about 10 years before he escaped to England. There he took refuge in a monastery in Gaul for 12 years. That’s where he became a priest, and later took his teachings back to Ireland.

2. St. Patrick didn’t rid Ireland of snakes- You’ve probably heard the legend that St. Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland during one of his sermons. National Geographic writer James Owen says: “It’s admittedly an unlikely tale. Ireland is one of only a handful of places worldwide—including New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica—that Indiana Jones and other snake-averse humans can visit without fear.”

Don Arnold- Getty Images

3. Leprechauns were first mentioned in the 8th century- Researchers think that the belief in leprechauns, a term that comes from the Irish word meaning “small-bodied fellow,” probably originated in the Celtic belief in fairies. According to History, Celtic folktales told stories of tiny men and women with magical powers who were known for their trickery. Leprechauns were said to have spent most of their time making shoes and stored their coins in a hidden pot of gold.

4. The official color of St. Patrick is actually blue- Several artworks of St. Patrick show him wearing blue vestments and blue was also commonly used on flags and coats-of-arms to represent Ireland. Green came into the picture much later, probably as a symbol of the greenness of the “Emerald Isle.”

Robertus Pudyanto- Getty Images

5. St. Patrick’s Day was a dry holiday in Ireland until about 40 years ago- Hard to believe, but St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday known for drunkenness was actually a a dry celebration. In fact, Irish law between 1903 and 1970 made St. Patrick’s Day a religious holiday for the whole country. All pubs were shut down for the day. That law was overturned in 1970.

6. Corned beef and cabbage isn’t an Irish traditional dish- I love corned beef and cabbage and make it every year for St. Patrick’s Day, but the tradition of serving it is more American than Irish. According to 9News, the dish is a variation of a traditional Irish meal that included bacon, but because early Irish-Americans were poor, beef was a cheaper alternative, and cabbage happened to be a springtime vegetable.

Stuart C. Wilson-Getty Images

7. St. Patrick’s Day as we know it  began in America- In the early days of the United States, Irish Americans who wanted to celebrate their shared identity started St. Patrick’s Day with banquets at elite clubs in cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1762 and was common by the mid-19th century. St. Patrick’s Day was a relatively minor religious holiday in Ireland until the 1970s.

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