St. Patrick’s Day Fun Facts

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Asten Rathbun

The famous Chicago green river in 2012. Labeled for Reuse by Creative Commons.

The color green, parades, Leprechauns, and shamrocks — these are the images of St. Patrick’s Day. But the images don’t tell the entire story. Throughout history, St. Patrick’s Day has meant so much more.

Here are a few fun facts about the holiday almost guaranteed to surprise.

St. Patrick was not Irish!

Ireland’s most famous and well-known saint was actually from England, specifically Wales. Although he made his mark by going to Ireland in the year 432 and introducing Christianity, Patrick wasn’t actually Irish himself. He was born to Roman parents in Wales in the late 4th century.

The shamrock was a teaching tool!

According to the folk tale, St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leafed clover, to educate about the Christian Holy Trinity. The word “shamrock” is derived from the Irish word “seamróg,” meaning “little clover.” It is the symbol that represents Ireland and wearing and displaying clovers has become a widespread and popular practice on St. Patrick’s Day.

In the past, people wore sky blue on St. Patrick’s day!

For many years, blue was the main color of Saint Patrick. Green was actually considered unlucky. St. Patrick’s blue was widely considered an emblem of Ireland for multiple centuries and the Irish Presidential color is still blue.

Even though we usually associate “Kelly green” with the Irish and the holiday, the 5th-century saint’s official color was “Saint Patrick’s Blue,” a light shade of sky blue. The color green only became associated with Saint Patrick’s day after it was linked to the Irish independence movement in the late 18th century.

One of the first St. Patrick’s Day parades took place in The Big Apple!

Surprisingly, one of the very first St. Patrick’s Day parades took place in New York, not Ireland.

New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the world’s largest and most famous parades. Since 1762, about 250,000 people have marched up 5th Avenue on foot, the parade still prohibits floats, cars, or other modern things of the sort.

The Chicago River turns green on St. Patrick’s Day! 

New York may have more recognition, Chicago has a spectacle of its own. The city of Chicago has been celebrating St. Patrick by dumping green dye into the Chicago River since 1962.

Annually in Chicago, the Plumbers Union pours a crazy amount of what’s essentially food coloring into the Chicago River, which dyes the river the iconic “Kelly” green. The dye lasts for about twenty-four hours, and although the organizers of the event won’t reveal their exact formula, we do know that the green powder used is dispersed through flour sifters by the local Plumbers Union.

Even in Sydney, the famous Opera House gets a green makeover!

Sydney opera house shines green on Saint Patrick’s day. Labeled for Reuse by Creative Commons.

In 2010, the Sydney Opera House was basked in green to mark the 200th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Day in the city. In Sydney, St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated in 1810, when Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales at the time, used the holiday to provide entertainment for Irish convict workers.

Cris Robson, a science teacher at Air Academy, said she enjoys Saint Patrick’s day.

“My grandmother is Irish, so it is fun getting into an Irish holiday,” Robson said.

So what do you think, will you start wearing blue instead of green? Take the poll in this story to see how other people celebrate Saint Patrick’s day.

How do you spend St. Patrick's Day?

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