Whether you call it St. Patrick’s Day, St. Paddy’s Day or St. Patty’s Day, March 17th is that day of the year where half the world seems to call themselves Irish. A day which celebrates the luck of the Irish, all things green, music, dancing and plenty of alcohol, here are 10 fun facts about Saint Patrick’s Day.
1. The patron saint of Ireland
The Catholic Church first recognised March 17th as a feast day commemorating Ireland’s best-known and most beloved patron saint, Saint Patrick, in 1631. It is always on March 17th and with time has evolved into a fun and festive celebration of Irish culture.
2. Alcohol prohibition was temporarily lifted
The festival always fell during the Christian holy season of Lent, when alcohol consumption was prohibited by the Church. However, on Saint Patrick’s feast day the ban on alcohol was lifted, presumably because it was a feast day, and feasting usually included alcohol.
3. Pubs were closed!
Irish laws used to limit the use of alcohol on Saint Patrick’s feast day by forcing all pubs to remain closed on that day. This was only repealed in the 1970s!
4. An Irish thing
In the mid-1990s the Irish government noticed growing interest in St. Patrick’s Day by American tourists and launched a national campaign to convert this into tourist dollars.
5. Spreading through the USA
In the USA during the 1800s more than one million Irish were immigrating through Ellis Island. They faced strong discrimination with most unemployed and in severe poverty, and as their numbers grew they joined together to celebrate their beloved patron saint on St. Patrick’s Day. They took these celebrations with them as they made their way across the country into the deep south seeking cheap farmland and jobs.
6. A worldwide celebration
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in more countries around the world than any other single-day national festival! This is largely due to the USA’s enthusiasm for the festival, as the country sees huge celebrations on the day and many Americans consider it a holiday, although it is not an official holiday there.
7. The first parade to honour St. Patrick’s Day
The first parade held in St. Patrick’s honour actually took place in the USA, not Ireland! It was in 1601 in what is now St. Augustine in Florida.
8. The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade
The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade also took place in the USA! It was in 1737 in Boston, although it was really just a walk down the middle of a street by a few Irish Protestants to honour the patron saint of their motherland.
9. The first New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade
The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City was held in 1762, fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and was organised by Irish troops serving in British colonies.
10. A worldwide celebration
Today the annual parade in New York City is the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It sees more than two million spectators line the parade route, all claiming to be Irish, at least for the day.