SEBRING — Every year March 17 turns into a huge party with drinking, loads of the color green, leprechauns and plenty of corned-beef and cabbage to go around. We pretend to be Irish for a day and drink way too much. We even turn our beer green because we tell ourselves it’s the Irish thing to do.
But what do we really know about St. Patrick’s Day? To get you in the spirit of the holiday, here are 17 facts about St. Patrick’s Day that you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
1. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737.
2. 1 million attendees flock to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City each year.
4. 34.7 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, which is seven times the population of Ireland. Irish is the second most reported ancestry by Americans. German is first.
5. According to history.com, the number of American citizens who were actually born in Ireland is 144,588.
6. In 1962 officials in Chicago dyed a portion of the Chicago River green for the first time. It took 40 tons of dye.
7. Everyone knows the three-leaf clover associated with the holiday, but the most leaves found on a clover is 14. The three-leafed clover was used by Saint Patrick to represent the Holy Trinity when he was introducing Christianity to the people of Ireland.
8. The man now known as Saint Patrick was actually born Maewyn Succat. Saint Maewyn’s Day just doesn’t have the same ring to it. He changed his name to Patricius after he became a priest.
9. Although Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, he wasn’t born there. Patrick is actually British. He was born in Britain during the fourth century, but the exact location is debated. When the young Patrick was only 16 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into slavery. He escaped six years later. Eventually he found his way back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary and the rest is history ... and a bit of myth.
10. Speaking of myth, as the story goes Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. It’s a great story. Not true, but a great story. According to National Geographic, there were no snakes in Ireland to begin with. This was allegedly due to the Ice Age and not anything Patrick did, but his version sounds cooler.
11. Every St. Patrick’s Day we wear green in honor of Patrick and what he accomplished. However, Saint Patrick was originally associated with the color blue, not green. Where did green come from then? There are two major schools of thought as to where the color change happened. One story is that it came from Leprechaun lore that says leprechauns can’t see the color green.
12. The little dudes (Irish folklore says there are no female leprechauns) would pinch anyone they could see, so you wore green to be invisible to them. The other theory is that the color green is associated with the Irish Independence movement of the 18th century.
13. Between the years of 1999 and 2007, a village in Ireland called Dripsey touted that they had the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. The parade route was a total of 26 yards. It stretched the distance between two pubs. It has since been dethroned due to a Hot Springs, Arkansas whose brief parade runs for 98 feet.
14. March 17 in Ireland used to be considered a religious holiday, so all the bars were closed and no alcohol was served that day. Sometime in 1970, the day was changed to a national holiday and the beer flowed once again.
15. Speaking of beer, according to a 2012 estimate, the total amount of money spent on beer for St. Patrick’s Day came to about $245 million.
16. A traditional St. Patrick’s Day staple is corned beef and cabbage. Did you know that it has nothing to do with corn? “Corn” refers to the large salt grains that were once used to cure meat.
17. Depending on where you go for your St. Patrick’s Day adventures, at least one person in the room is likely to yell out the phrase, “Erin go Bragh.” This a bit of a broken phrasing but it roughly translates to “Ireland Forever.”