13 Things You Need To Know This St Patrick's Day

ireland

Photo: James Jordan on flickr

On March 17, Irish and non-Irish alike celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with much drinking and revelry. But that’s not how the day was originally celebrated.The day of Ireland’s patron saint is actually a religious occasion, and was observed as such since it began in the 10th century. It was only with the arrival of Irish immigrants in the United States in the 18th century that the parades became a symbolic way of celebrating their traditions and roots, according to History.com.

So we decided to dig a little into the history of the occasion and its origins in Irish folklore, as well as the recent history of the ‘Emerald Isle’ itself, to see how far the traditions and symbols associated with it have changed over time.

St Patrick wasn't originally Irish.

He was born in Britain around 390 AD to an aristocratic Christian family with a townhouse, a country villa, and slaves. He was kidnapped to Ireland when he was 16, and although he escaped, he had a vision of God that compelled him to go back and preach Christianity to the Irish.

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St Patrick's Day is observed on March 17, the date of St Patrick's death in the late 400s CE.

Patrick, who later became the patron saint of Ireland, was responsible for converting most of Ireland to Christianity. The original inhabitants of the island were pagan worshippers of the Sun.

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Originally, the colour associated with St Patrick was blue.

Over the years the colour green and its association with Ireland (called 'The Emerald Isle') and St. Patrick's Day grew.

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The traditional shamrock represents the Holy Trinity.

St. Patrick allegedly used it to explain to the pagan inhabitants of Ireland the concept of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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Ireland could be Plato's Atlantis.

Ireland is about 300 miles (480 kilometers) long and 200 miles (320 kilometers) wide. Those facts, along with other features, led Swedish geographer Ulf Erlingsson to recently conclude that the Atlantic Ocean island is identified by the Greek philosopher Plato as Atlantis in his famous dialogues Timaeus and Critias.

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Pubs and bars in Ireland would stay closed on March 17 until the 1970s.

In 1905, Irish Member of Parliament James O'Mara introduced the law after drinking got out of hand, but the provision was repealed in the 1970s.

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The shortest St Patrick's Day parade in the world was just 100 yards.

It took place in Dripsey, Cork, in Ireland, between the village's two pubs. But when one of the pubs closed down, the parade was replaced by a tractor and vintage car rally.

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Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called 'Darby O'Gill & the Little People,' which introduced America to a cheerful, friendly leprechaun, very different from the cranky little man of Irish folklore (the black-and-white drawing on the left). But Disney's imagined version (the colour representation on the right) stuck, and the leprechaun is now a symbol of St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.

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On St Patrick's Day, 13 million pints of Guinness stout beer are consumed worldwide.

That's more than double the average of 5.5 million pints on any other day.

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In the past, there was good reason to celebrate.

In 2005, Ireland was ranked the best place to live in the world. According to The Economist's Quality of Life Index, which measures GDP per person, job security, community life, and political stability, among other things.

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In the early 2000s, Ireland had the lowest unemployment rate of any developed industrial country.

In 2006, the Irish government had a budget surplus of 2.9% of GDP.

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But then things started to go downhill.

In 2010, Ireland was given an €85 billion ($113 billion) bailout by the EU and IMF. And according to Former European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, it could need a further €80 billion, Bloomberg reports.

Last month, Ireland's debt was 108.1% of its GDP.

General government debt was $225 billion, and their credit rating was 'Ba1', or 'junk'. The unemployment rate jumped from 4.4 per cent to 14.5 per cent.

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