March 17 is celebrated by millions of Irish descendants every year. They all know the “facts” about Saint Patrick. Or do they?
St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, and he wasn’t born in Ireland. Patrick was probably born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales around A.D. 390. Most agree that St. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in the British Isles. Therefore, Patrick himself was a Roman citizen even though he was born somewhere in what is now Great Britain. He was living in Scotland or Wales (scholars can’t agree which) when he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish raiders and sold as a slave, reports Catholic Online. He spent years in Ireland herding sheep until he escaped. He eventually returned to Ireland where he spread Christianity.
St. Patrick did not bring Christianity to Ireland. Christianity was introduced into Ireland by a bishop known as Palladius before Patrick began preaching in Ireland. However, St. Patrick apparently had more success at converting the Irish to Christianity than did Palladius.
Legend has it that St. Patrick ran all the snakes out of Ireland. If he was the one to drive snakes out of Ireland, we have to congratulate him on also eradicating all signs of prehistoric snakes. You see, nobody has ever found a fossil of a snake in Ireland! Ireland apparently never had snakes in the first place, due its glacial history and geographical location.
The “wearin’ of the green” also should not be linked to St. Patrick’s Day. Early depictions of St. Patrick always showed him wearing blue garments. In fact, King Henry VIII used a gold Irish harp on a blue flag when he declared himself king of Ireland, according to the Smithsonian. But political discord also affected colors and as the people of Ireland distanced themselves from the British crown, green eventually became associated with Ireland (and the country’s rebellion) long after the death of St. Patrick.
Corned beef is not a classic St. Patrick’s Day dish nor even an Irish dish. In Ireland, corned beef has always been a rarity. Instead, a type of bacon similar to ham is more common. According to Irish Cultures and Customs at http://irishcultureandcustoms.com/2Kitch/aCBeefCabge.html, “The truth is, that for many Irish people, Corned Beef is too ‘poor’ or plain to eat on a holiday: they’d sooner make something more festive.”
In the late 19th century, Irish immigrants in New York City’s Lower East Side supposedly substituted corned beef, which they bought from their Jewish neighbors, in order to save money. However, cabbage is certainly a common Irish ingredient in many meals.
The traditional St. Patrick’s day parade is not traditional, at least not in Ireland. The first documented St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York City, not in Ireland. Eighteenth-century Irish soldiers fighting with the British in the U.S. Revolutionary War held the first St. Patrick’s Day parades. Some soldiers, for example, marched through New York City in 1762 to reconnect with their Irish roots.
Other parades followed in the years and decades after, including well-known celebrations in Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, primarily in flourishing Irish immigrant communities.
And then there is the green beer…
No, it isn’t Irish either.