St Patrick’s Day is nearly here again. It’s the day of the year when pretty much everyone claims to be at least a little bit Irish. Even if that means searching through the family photo album for any sign that your aunt’s second cousin twice removed once visited Dublin. And we’ve got a couple of goodies for you.
Firstly, our brilliant designers and tech geniuses have got together to create a shareable personalised shamrock. Click here, enter your name and then share your shamrock far and wide.
And to make sure that you can wow your friends over a pint of the finest Irish stout I’ve been doing some incredibly important research into some curious St Patrick’s Day facts…
1. St Patrick wasn’t Irish (and wasn’t called Patrick)
Although he’s the patron saint of Ireland after introducing Christianity there in the year 432, it turns out St Patrick wasn’t Irish himself. He was born to Roman parents in either Scotland or Wales in the late fourth century. And he wasn’t even called Patrick originally. His birth name was Maewyn Succat. He changed his name to Patricius after becoming a priest.
2. Snakes, what snakes?
Famed for driving all of the snakes out of Ireland, it turns out the serpents St Patrick took on might have been more metaphorical than literal. According to modern experts post-glacial Ireland is one of the few countries on Earth that has never had any snakes. Still, getting rid of invisible, metaphorical snakes might be an even more impressive feat than getting rid of actual slippery customers.
3. The greenest day on the Emerald Isle is traditionally blue
The original colour associated with St Patrick was a light shade of blue, in homage to the religious vestments he wore. The color green only became associated with the big day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.
4. Turning an entire river green
Today there are more people in America who claim Irish heritage then there are people living in Ireland. Never ones to do things by halves St Patrick’s Day is a big deal in the United States. And ever since 1962 the US city of Chicago has been celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day by filling the Chicago River with green dye. It takes 40 tons of vegetable-based dye to get the river to a suitably festive shade. And the water retains its emerald tint for 5 hours.
5. It Used to Be a Dry Holiday in Ireland
As befits a patron saint, for most of the 20th century, St Patrick’s Day was a strictly religious holiday in Ireland. This means it was a serious business so the nation’s pubs were always closed for business on March 17th. In 1970, the day was converted to a national holiday, and the stout could begin flowing.
6. The world loves “the black stuff”
Since the move from a religious to a national holiday the Saint Patrick’s Day revelry around the globe has been great news for Ireland’s most iconic brewery. On an average day 5.5 million pints of Guinness are poured worldwide but on St Patrick’s Day this goes up to a whopping 13 million pints. But, as with so many other things related to St Patrick’s Day, not everything is as it seems. It turns out that Guinness isn’t black after all. If you hold it up to the light you’ll see that it’s a deep ruby red.
7. A truly global day of parties great and small
The single biggest celebration of St Patrick’s Day in the world takes place in New York. Up to 300,000 people take part in the city’s annual parade in front of a further 3 million spectators! Meanwhile, several hundred miles south and one of the less obvious places to celebrate it is the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Founded by Irish refugees, Montserrat is nicknamed the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” both for the Irish heritage of many of its inhabitants and for its resemblance to coastal Ireland.
And one last bonus fact, there are 16 places in the US named Dublin!
So there you go, you’ve got your own personal shamrock to share and enough curious facts to spin a St Patrick’s Day tale worthy of James Joyce himself. Get to your local pub, order a Guinness and raise a toast to St Patrick. Sláinte!