St Paddy's Day was once purely a Christian holiday and it didn't become an official feast day until the early 1600s. However, it is now much more of a secular celebration of Ireland's culture, and the Guinness brand in particular.
Did you know...?
2009 was the 250th anniversary of Guinness and by 2001, almost 2 billion pints a year were sold worldwide - that's over 10 million glasses every day. Unsurprisingly it is Ireland's best-selling drink, but in 2006, more Guinness was sold in Canada than in Ireland. Guinness is brewed in more than 150 countries worldwide, including Nigeria and Indonesia, and 40% of all Guinness sales are in Africa. Over the years, much slang has come about when ordering a pint of Guinness and here are just a few examples: 'Arthur G'; 'Pint of black stuff'; 'Arthur Scargill'; 'Pint of plain'. The 'Guinness is Good For You' slogan is still used in many places worldwide, and some research has apparently shown that Guinness has heart health benefits. However, Guinness now officially states that they make no such health claims.
Little is known of the early life of St Patrick, although it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the fifth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon in the Church, like his father before him, but at the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. He was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity and escape to the coast, where a ship would return him to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church and studied to be a priest.
In 432, now a bishop, he found himself called back to Ireland, to save the native populace. He was successful in this task, focusing on converting royalty and aristocracy as well as the poor. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to the Irish people.
After nearly thirty years of teaching and spreading God's word, Patrick died on 17 March 461. He was buried at Downpatrick, or so tradition says. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.
Legend has it that Patrick banished all the snakes fro
m Ireland. When people first discov
ered the fossils of ammonites, they took them to be the snakes, curled up and turned to stone. The truth is that post-glacial Ireland probably never had any snakes in the first place. However, the legend may have come about that because of Patrick's missionary work, when, in professing the Christian faith he came up against the local Druids with their serpent symbolism.
The colour originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue. However, over the years the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick's day has grown. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century. During the 1798 Irish Rebellion, wanting to make a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniform
s on 17 March in hopes of attracting attention with their unusual fashion gimmick. The phrase 'the wearing of the green', refers to the wearing of a shamrock on one's clothing and derives from the song of the same name.
Did you know...? The Chicago River is dyed green each year for the St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Whatever you're doing today, have a Happy St Patrick's Day!