What’s the story behind St Patrick’s Day?

With St Patrick’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d take a look at some St Patrick’s Day facts to raise your glasses to!

Why 17th March?

Simple – the date marks the saint’s death.  Patrick dies in 461 in Saul, County Down.  It was here that he had established his first church in a small and simple barn, after arriving nearby at the mouth of the Slaney River.  He is buried in the grounds of Down Catherdral in Downpatrick and a memorial stone, made from local Mourne Mountain granite, marks his grave.  For those who celebrate its intended meaning, St Patrick’s Day is a traditional day for spiritual renewal.

When was the first parade?

Interestingly, the first St Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland at all, but in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737.  This was followed by an official parade in New York in 1766.  Ireland was a little further behind with their first parade being held in Waterford in 1903, while Dublin joined the club in 1931.  Today, the parade in Dublin is a huge colourful, theatrical event that snakes through the historic city centre with vivid displays and music.

Who invented St Patrick’s Day?

Raise your glasses to Luke Wadding, an Irish Franciscan friar from Waterford whose persistent efforts turned March 17th into a feast day.  Born in 1558, Wadding dies in Rome on 1657 and his remains are interred there in the college of St Isidore’s which he founded. 

Was St Patrick really Irish?

No, he was born in Britain around AD 390 to a wealthy family and reported to have been kidnapped aged 16 and taken to Ireland to herd sheep.  On his escape, he returned to Ireland to spread the word of Christianity alongside building churches until his death in 461 in County Down.

Where is the best parade?

Short, long, silly or serious you’ll find every manner of St Patrick’s Day parade al over Ireland, from the biggest in Dublin to the earliest in Dingle, County Kerry where it kicks off at 6am.  There’s a week-long festival in Armagh and a carnival parade and concert in Belfast.  The shortest parade used to be in Dripsey, County Cork from one pub to another.  Sadly the parade is no more but you can still celebrate in the town with the annual vintage tractor and car run.

Why green?

The donning of everything green is said to be attributed to the shamrock or possibly refers to ‘The Emerald Isle’, Ireland’s nickname, although the original celebratory colour was blue!

What about the snakes?

Tradition has it that St Patrick banished all snakes into the sea however, scientists believe the slithering creatures never inhabited Ireland in the first place!

Now you know all the facts, it’s time to dig out your green clothes, eat green food and raise a toast with a pint of Guinness to “the luck of the Irish”.