It’s time for Irish heritage to take the spotlight once again with the arrival of St. Patrick’s Day. Partakers in the luckiest day of the year will break out the green face paint and four-leaf clovers to pay tribute to the fabled saint this March 17th. But how many people really know what St. Patrick was all about? Before going out and submerging your body in all-things green, learn some little known facts about the saint you’re celebrating and take the sham out of your shamrock!
• St. Patrick wasn’t Irish!
The biggest misconception about St. Patrick was that he was Irish. In spite of the fact that everyone dyes their hair red and throws on their best buckled shoes to commemorate the saint, he has nothing to do with Irish culture – at least not until after his childhood. Born in England circa 385, St. Patrick didn’t make his way to Ireland until Irish pirates kidnapped him at age 16. From there, he started his journey to converting the Irish to Christianity and becoming an Irish patron saint.
• The original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t green.
There’s enough green seen on St. Patrick’s Day to make even Yoda and the Hulk feel like it’s a bit overdone. The strange thing is that green wasn’t even the original color used to represent St. Patrick; it was blue. After the Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783, the organization’s color had to stand out from those that preceded it. And since dark green was already taken, the Order of St. Patrick went with blue.
• There were no snakes for St. Pat to banish in Ireland.
St. Patrick was known through folklore for having chased away snakes in Ireland, thus protecting townspeople from the mysterious creatures and sending them to the sea. However, Ireland didn’t have snakes at the time. Surrounded by icy water, Ireland was the last place that these cold-blooded reptiles would want to go. It’s much more reasonable to think that the “snakes” that St. Patrick banished were representative of the Druids and Pagans in Ireland since they were considered evil.
• St. Patrick was never canonized by a pope.
With all of this recent talk about popes, it’s worth noting that St. Patrick never got canonized by one, making his saintly status somewhat questionable. Let’s just say he’s a saint in the same way that Aretha Franklin is the “Queen of Soul” or Michael Jackson is the “King of Pop.” But in all fairness, St. Patrick wasn’t the only saint that didn’t go through a proper canonization. In the Church’s first millennium, there wasn’t a formal canonization process at all, so most saints from that period were given the title if they were either martyrs or seen as extraordinarily holy.