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7 St. Patrick’s Day Myths, Symbols and Facts Explained

St. Patrick’s Day is a time to celebrate Irish culture, which most Americans do by wearing green and drinking beer. But there’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than standing outside in the freezing March wind for a parade and then puking on your shoes. So for your edification, here are 7 of the interesting myths, symbols and facts surrounding St. Patrick’s Day explained:

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  • St. Pat’s Traditions 1 of 8
    St. Pat's Traditions
    ...and the associated images and phrases, explained...
  • St. Patrick Never Drove Snakes Out of Ireland 2 of 8
    St. Patrick Never Drove Snakes Out of Ireland
    I can remember being a kid and having been told that St. Patrick was in fact sainted because he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Not true. "At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish," says naturalist Nigel Monaghan of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
    Photo credit: Wikipedia
  • St. Patrick Used Three-Leaf Clovers to Explain the Trinity to the Pagans 3 of 8
    St. Patrick Used Three-Leaf Clovers to Explain the Trinity to the Pagans
    "Legend credits St. Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. For this reason, shamrocks are a central symbol for St Patrick's Day," Wikipedia notes.
    Photo credit: Flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography
  • Leprechauns Diminished in Importance When Catholicism Came to Ireland 4 of 8
    Leprechauns Diminished in Importance When Catholicism Came to Ireland
    Leprechauns are often used in materials about Ireland and in celebration of St. Patrick's Day, but of course the tiny, mythical fairy creatures have nothing to do with the holy man. Wikipedia says, "The leprechaun originally had a different appearance depending on where in Ireland he was found. Prior to the 20th century, it was generally held that the leprechaun wore red, not green." Furthermore, it is argued that "When Christianity took religious precedence, this may have brought about the decline of importance (and thus, size) of the leprechauns." For more on that, visit frowl.org.
    Photo credit: Wikipedia
  • We Wear Green on St. Patrick’s Day, But the Color Originally Associated with Him Is Blue 5 of 8
    We Wear Green on St. Patrick's Day, But the Color Originally Associated with Him Is Blue
    This has to do with the fact that blue has traditionally been symbolic of Ireland, though that obviously changed over time. This is a badge of The Order of St. Patrick in St. Patrick's blue. Wikipedia notes that "Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St. Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century."
    Photo credit: Wikipedia
  • The Feast of Saint Patrick Happens on March 17… 6 of 8
    The Feast of Saint Patrick Happens on March 17...
    ...in honor of the day he died. Wikipedia notes, "Saint Patrick's feast day ... was already being celebrated by the Irish in Europe in the ninth and tenth centuries .... Saint Patrick's feast day was finally placed on the universal liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church ... in the early 1600s." Interestingly, "The church calendar avoids the observance of saints' feasts during certain solemnities, moving the saint's day to a time outside those periods. Saint Patrick's Day is occasionally affected by this requirement, when 17 March falls during Holy Week. This happened in 1940, when Saint Patrick's Day was observed on 3 April in order to avoid it coinciding with Palm Sunday, and again in 2008, where it was officially observed on 14 March. Saint Patrick's Day will not fall within Holy Week again until 2160. However, the secular celebration is always held on 17 March."
    Photo credit: Today's Fabulous Finds
  • ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ Originates from Kissing the Blarney Stone 7 of 8
    'Kiss Me, I'm Irish' Originates from Kissing the Blarney Stone
    Pictured here is the stunning Blarney Castle where the famous "Blarney Stone" lies. According to Our Ireland, "Legend holds that the kisser of the stone will be endowed with the gift of eloquence, the gift of gab, or skill at flattery. The term ‘blarney' has become synonymous with flattering, clever or coaxing talk.... In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, King Dermot McCarthy was forced to surrender his castle to the Queen to prove his loyalty. He told her that he would be glad to do so, but things always came up at the last minute that prevented the surrender. His frequent excuses caused the official who had, in the Queen's name, been demanding the surrender, to become somewhat of a joke at the Court. One time, when McCarthy's eloquent excuses were relayed to Queen Elizabeth, she said, "Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!" Through this, ‘blarney' came to mean ‘the skill of influencing and coaxing with soft speech and fair words without offending.' Though the actual origin of the kissing custom is not known, a local legend holds that the King of Munster rescued an old woman from drowning, and she rewarded him by giving him a spell, that upon kissing a stone atop the castle, he would be endowed with speech that would draw all people to him."
    Photo credit: Flickr user Neil Melville-Kenney
  • The Irish Are Historically Unlucky 8 of 8
    The Irish Are Historically Unlucky
    The phrase "the luck o' the Irish" has become synonymous with St. Patrick's Day and is generally thought to be about how lucky the Irish are, but it originated as a sarcastic remark about how *unlucky* the Irish have been. (Colonization, famines, et. al.) Additionally, according to this post on Mental Floss, "During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth. . . .Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression 'luck of the Irish.' Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed."
    Photo credit: etsy

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