17 Things to Know About St. Patrick's Day
A pint's worth of particulars about St. Patrick, his holiday, symbols and misconceptions.
1. The Basics. St. Patrick's Day is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated on March 17 in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador, and also by people of Irish descent in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and, of course, the United States. It commemorates the life and death of St. Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland.
2. Origins. The Irish have celebrated St. Patrick's Day as a religious holiday for more than 1,000 years to commemorate the accepted date of his death in the late 5th century. It used to be that Christians would attend religious services in the morning and celebrate afterwards, when the Lenten prohibitions on bacon and booze were lifted.
3. He Was What? Ireland's patron saint and national apostle was actually born in Britain, about 387. As a teen, Patrick was kidnapped and sent to Ireland as a slave. He escaped in 409 and returned to Ireland in 432, believing he had been called upon to spread the word of God. Just a few years later, he had enjoyed much success, reportedly even baptizing 12,000 people in a single day. Also, his given name was Maewyn.
4. How He Got Here. According to History.com, St. Patrick's Day celebrations spread to the United States in 1762, when Irish soldiers in the English army marched through New York City. Today that parade has 150,00 to 250,000 marchers and about 2 million spectators, the same site says.
5. Boston Marches Tomorrow. The annual St. Patrick's Day parade in South Boston steps off at 1 p.m. tomorrow, March 18. For more details, click here.
6. Green River. Boston might be the most Irish American city, but Chicago dyes its river green. According to GreenChicagoRiver.com, the tradition dates back more than 40 years, and is privately funded.
8. Or Check Out Waxy's. If you fancy a pint with your traditional Irish fare, head over to Waxy O'Connors on Hartwell Avenue, where the menu includes corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, bangers and mash and Guinness beef stew.
9. St. Paddy's Symbolism. Some popular symbols of St. Patrick and his holiday include wearing green, shamrocks, snakes and leprechauns. More on those later.
10. Well, This is Embarrassing. On St. Patrick’s Day, we Americans may dress the part, but we don’t drink it. According to the YouGov BrandIndex's Buzz score, Guinness, a go-to Irish beer, doesn’t top the list of most popular beers on tap today. In fact, it doesn’t even crack the top five.
11. Here's the List. 1.) Sam Adams, 2.) Budweiser, 3.) Bud Light, 4.) Heineken, 5.) Corona, 6.) Guinness, 7.) Dos Equis, 8.) Miller Light, 9.) Coors Light and 10.) Miller.
12. The Shamrock Story. According to Irish legend, Time and scads of other websites, St. Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol to explain the Holy Trinity to prospective Christian converts, using its leave to represent the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
13. A Snake Charmer He Was Not. Many of those same legends hold that Patrick used a staff to drive all of the snakes out of Ireland. Except only it definitely didn't go down that way. Ireland has no snakes because it never had any snakes, scientists say. The snakes probably referred to pagans.
14. St. Paddy's Stats. An estimated 122 million Americans will celebrate St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, and most of them will be wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage and maybe pulling up a seat at a bar somewhere. In Ireland, however, they're not big on green beer and more commonly pair their cabbage with a kind of bacon that's sorta similar to ham.
15. Some Songs You Might Hear: In bars across America today, sing-a-long songs by the Irish Rovers, the Dubliners, Clancy Brothers and newer acts like the Pogues and Dropkick Murphys. Count on hearing "Wild Rover," "Whiskey in the Jar," "That's an Irish Lullaby," and "The Unicorn Song."
16. Penty O' Patricks. According to History.com, about 650,000 American babies have been named Patrick over the past 100 years -- your editor and his father among them.
17. Be Safe Out There Tonight/Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. Earlier this month, Col. Marian J. McGovern, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, announced that a “Sobriety Checkpoint” would be implemented today into tomorrow, March 18, in Middlesex County.