21 Things You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day
The day we associate with massive amounts of beer drinking actually started as a religious holiday and—spoiler alert—St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish!
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world
Although historically celebrated in countries with larger Irish immigrant communities including the United States, Australia, and Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated in countries as far-flung as Japan, Singapore, and Russia.
You used to not be allowed to buy beer on St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day used to be a solemn commemoration of the day he died. In 1927, Irish officials even banned the sale of alcohol on his name day (as well as on Christmas and Good Friday), partly at the insistence of the Catholic Church. Until the early 1960s, one of the only places you could buy a beer in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day was the wellattended Royal Dublin Dog Show. Commercial pressure led to the lifting of the ban in 1960.
Now it’s one of the booziest holidays
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March 17 ranks fourth on the list of booziest holidays in America, behind New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and the Fourth of July. The drink of choice around the world: Guinness. In 2019, revelers are expected to down 13 million pints of it.
One city has a week-long celebration
Big cities try to claim bragging rights for the day’s top celebrations, but they aren’t the only parties in town. Montserrat, aka the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, throws a St. Patrick’s Festival that lasts more than a week.
Chicago goes all green
In 1962, the Chicago Plumbers Union Local 130 realized that the dye they used to locate leaks in buildings could double as an eco-friendly decoration. The Windy City has been dyeing the Chicago River green for the holiday ever since. The 40 pounds of dye can linger in the water for up to a few days, depending on the wind.
The famous Shamrock Shake
Slightly less popular but with its own rabid fan base: McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. The restaurant chain created a “McDonald’s Finder” app last year to help customers track down the minty green confection—and it is a confection. A large Shamrock contains 800 calories and 113 grams of sugar.
The first parade in Belfast was big
More than 10,000 Catholics took to the streets of Belfast in 1998 to hold the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the long-divided Northern Ireland city. In hope of encouraging Protestant involvement, the parade organizer told the fife-and-drum bands not to play any anti-British music.
Pork was the original meal for this holiday
Corned beef and cabbage is the quintessential St. Patrick’s meal, right? Actually, in pre-famine Ireland, beef was a rare delicacy—the commoners typically ate pork. But when Irish immigrants came to the United States, they reportedly noticed their Jewish neighbors and fellow immigrants buying brisket from kosher butchers and followed suit. The Jews even slow-cooked their Passover meal with potatoes. (The Irish threw in the cabbage.) Check out these facts about the month of March.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905, in New York City
They picked that day because Eleanor’s uncle was giving away the bride and he couldn’t miss the big parade. Uncle Teddy was President Theodore Roosevelt. “He wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening,” his daughter Alice Roosevelt said.
The festivities reach the highest echelons
Ireland’s prime minister gives the U.S. president an Irish cut-glass bowl filled with shamrocks, the three-leafed sprig that is one of the state’s emblems. The tradition dates back to 1952, when the first Irish ambassador to America, John Joseph Hearne, reportedly dropped off a box of shamrocks for Harry Truman (who was out of town).