Every year on March 17, we Irish, and the Irish-at-heart, around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. What started as a holy day for the patron saint of Ireland is now a day for celebrating Irish culture, including parades, drinking, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.
But all those St. Patrick’s Day traditions? Not so true, or wonderful!
1. Oops! March 17th is when Patrick died. And we celebrate?
2. St. Patrick was not Irish, nor “Patrick.” He was born to Roman parents in Scotland or Wales (scholars don’t agree on which) in the late fourth century. His original name was Maewyn Succat, but he changed his name to Patricius after becoming a priest.
3. “Erin go Bragh” isn’t correct. Even though you hear it at most St. Patrick’s Day events, this saying is a corruption of the Irish Éirinn go Brách, which means roughly “Ireland Forever.”
4. How nice – not! Traditionally on St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish leader gives a crystal bowl full of shamrocks to the US President – how beautiful! Except the story is that the Secret Service immediately destroys the Irish-grown shamrock. Spoil sports.
5. St. Patrick’s official color probably was not green: we should really drink blue beer rather than green on March 17. In several pieces of art depicting the saint, he is shown with blue vestments. Also, King Henry VIII used the Irish harp on a blue background to represent Ireland. From then on, blue has been a popular color on flags and coats-of-arms.
6. The shamrock is not really the symbol of Ireland. Although the shamrock is a famous Irish symbol, the harp was popular in Irish legend and culture – King Henry VIII used the harp on coins as early as 1534, and the harp was used on Irish flags, coats of arms, gravestones, and manuscripts. Beginning in 1642 the harp appeared on flags during rebellions against English rule. When Ireland became independent in 1921, it selected the harp as the national symbol.
7. Beer used to be banned on St. Patrick’s Day. For most of the 20th century, St. Patrick’s Day was an Irish religious holiday, which meant that the nation’s pubs were closed on March 17. (The one exception went to beer vendors at the big national dog show, which was always held on St. Patrick’s Day). In 1970, the day was changed to a national holiday, and the beer started flowing again. Today, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the largest drinking holidays.
8. There are more “Irish” in the USA than Ireland. Kind of. Because of the troubled history of Ireland, such as the potato famine, about 34 million Americans now have Irish ancestry. There are almost 5 million people living in Ireland.
9.There weren’t any snakes in Ireland. In Irish lore, St. Patrick gets credit for driving all the snakes out of Ireland. But that is “guff” according to the fossil record, Ireland has never been home to any snakes. Through the Ice Age, Ireland was too cold for reptiles, and the surrounding seas around the island are too cold for foreign invaders to swim to its shores.
10. Good luck finding a four-leaf clover. The odds of finding one on your first try are 1 in 10,000.
OK, now that I’ve ruined the tradition of it all, here is some compensation: a freebie St. Patrick’s Day printable that ignores the truths!
1) click on the image below to open it in a new tab, and then
2) click on the printer icon in the upper right of the new page (or right click with your mouse) to open a print “dialog.”
Happy coloring – using green, blue or whatever color you prefer!
Want some more Irish coloring inspiration? Try these coloring books:
10. Bradley, David (31 October 2008). “Five-leaf Clovers”.