With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, bars around Anchorage are stocking up on Guinness and Jameson, breaking out the green cups, food coloring, and Leprechaun-themed everything. But despite the pure fun of this celebratory holiday, there is actually a very serious and sometimes surprising history behind our current traditions. For example, it was not too long ago that Irish bars were actually prohibited from being open on St. Patty’s Day. And what once started as a solemn observance of the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, the St. Patty’s Day holiday has evolved into its current form as a celebration of Irish culture chock full of downtown parades, its own unique cuisine, music, dancing, and plenty of green beer.
But before you run off to your nearest pub to slosh down a pint and some corned beef, here are a few interesting facts about the day:
- There are more Irish in the United States than in Ireland. The entire population of Ireland is approx. 5 million, and there are an estimated 34 million people of Irish descent currently living in the United States.
- The actual color of St. Patrick is blue. Green became associated with St. Patty’s Day during the 19th century, as Irish legends such as immortals & fairies wore green. Farmers also wore green to encourage their crops to grow.
- 4 leaf clovers or shamrocks, are a symbol of rebirth in Spring and are considered a sacred plant. They became the symbol of Irish nationalism in the 16th century.
- Today the symbol of the clover represents hope, faith, love and luck.
- The first St. Patty’s Day celebration in the United States was held in Boston in 1737.
- 1962 was the first year the city of Chicago dyed its downtown river green in honor of the holiday.
- According to a recent study, over 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed each St. Patty’s Day, around the world.
- Did you ever wonder why St. Patty’s Day is always on March 17th? This is the day of St. Patrick’s death and his entrance into heaven, and otherwise known as the feast day.
- Cabbage and boiled bacon was a traditional dish served on this day in Ireland. When the Irish came to America, they couldn’t afford bacon and bought brisket and cabbage for special meals. Thus, corned beef and cabbage became associated with St. Patrick’s Day in America.
- In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Banks and stores close for the day.