St. Patrick’s Day: fun facts about the world’s best party
Held on March 17th – the day on which St. Patrick is said to have died – St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious day of feasting. Oh how times have changed.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a day of beer-drinking legendary. What was once a day or religious observance has now made the transformation into a whiskey and beer-soaked wider celebration of all things Irish – anything green and gold, shamrocks, leprechauns, good luck and Guinness are all fair game.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated globally, largely because Irish immigrants took the event with them as they migrated across the world centuries ago. On home turf in Ireland especially, and the US, where 34 million Irish descendants live, St. Patrick’s Day is a huge deal: with the exception of pubs and restaurants, many businesses close their doors for the day. Also, with it being a religious festival also, many Irish attend mass and offer prayer. After this the serious drinking and eating begins – it is a day which is officially exempt from the festival of Lent in the eyes of the Church, after all.
In short, there are parades, plenty of ‘wearing of the green’, music & song, Irish food and drink, and in some places like Chicago they even dye their rivers green. Oh, and drinking of Guinness.
Here are a few interesting facts about March 17th, in case you’d ever wondered what it was all about.
Who was St. Patrick? Is he the Patron Saint of Guinness?
You’d be forgiven for thinking he was the patron saint of Guinness, given how much of the black stuff we put away on the big day. But no, he wasn’t. What’s more, St. Patrick wasn’t actually Irish! In fact he wasn’t even named Patrick originally either, for that matter.
St. Patrick – or Maewyn Succat, as he was originally known – was born to Roman parents in either Scotland or Wales, during the early 5th-century. While the finer details of his earlier life are lost to history, it’s thought that at 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. Forced to work as a shepherd, it was during this 6-year period that he both fell in love with Ireland and became a devout Christian.
After escaping slavery, St. Patrick travelled back to Britain and vowed to return to what had become his second-home. The rest as they say his history: soon after his return he travelled to Europe to study, and was later ordained as a Bishop. St. Patrick then returned to Ireland, where he played a large part in the country’s transition from paganism to Christianity.
In older retellings of his background, it was also said that he even chased all the snakes from Ireland too – while clutching a pint of Guinness too, no doubt.
Where did the drinking come into it all then?
So, we all drink a lot on St. Patrick’s Day – the question is why?
Surprisingly, in modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was seen as a religious event – it only became acceptable to drink on March 17th in the 70’s, before which all pubs in Ireland were closed. It was only recently in 1995, when the Irish government first held the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin – an event which was all booze, parades, concerts and fireworks – that global interest ignited outside of Irish communities, and it’s carnival reputation was born.
Historically, though, St. Patrick’s Day did have more drink-friendly roots. According to drunkenhistory.com, while lodging at an inn, St. Patrick was served a cup of whiskey which was nowhere near full – an opportunity which he used to teach a lesson about generosity to the tight-fisted owner.
St. Patrick told the innkeeper there was a devil, living in the cellar with his whiskey, that had made him greedy and was making him cheat people out of their drink. To make the devil go away, he told the innkeeper that he had to fill each cup of whiskey he served until it was overflowing – upon his return to the inn at a later date, he found the innkeeper had learned his lesson, and was serving customers the full cups of whiskey they deserved.
After declaring that the pesky demon had fled, St. Patrick then declared the devil had fled, and it became custom after to drink a ‘full measure’ to mark the occasion – a custom which became known as ‘Pota Phadraig’ or Patrick’s Pot.
Legend also suggest that St. Patrick was the man who first introduced whiskey to Ireland – would this make him the Patron Saint of whiskey? Oh well, if you insist Patrick…
Unsurprisingly, the world racks up a pretty big bar tab on St. Patrick’s Day
- On the subject of St. Patrick’s Day drinking, here’s a few interesting pop quiz facts about how much we tend to put away on March 17th:
- Global sales of Irish whiskey go up 400%
- Around 1% of the world’s beer is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day
- Over 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed on the day
- With over 35 million people claiming Irish ancestry, compared to Ireland’s population of 4.5 million, the US will rack up the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day bar tab – spending in the states will be over $4.6 billion
Guinness, Guinness, Guinness…
- However no article about St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without a few facts about Guinness – the black Irish gold which is Ireland’s scrummiest export.
- In 1759, Arthur Guinness, businessman, brewer, and all-round legend, set-up shop and signed a 9000-year lease on St. James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin. The spiritual home of Guinness was born.
- When mankind isn’t drinking 13 million pints of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s usually drinking 5.5 million on any other day.
- The 5-biggest Guinness consuming countries are: Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, the US, and Cameroon.
- In years gone by, pregnant women, blood donors, and post-op hospital patients were given Guinness for the following reasons a) to fortify them b) because it’s the Elixir of Eternal Youth.
So as this worldwide drinking phenomena steeped in history and legend draws near, be sure to gather your friends, sample the black stuff and paint the town green. But of course (and we would say this) be mindful of your budget and drink responsibly!
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