1. The world’s first St Patrick’s Day parade
The first parade on record dedicated to St Patrick occurred on March 17, 1762, in New York City, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the English military. But it wasn’t until 1931, 169 years later, that Dublin had its first parade. Today, they paint a green line down the middle of 5th Avenue and the top of the Empire State Building glows green for the occasion.
2. St Patrick was not even a ‘Patrick’ !
His original name was Maewyn Succat, and it was not until he was ordained as a priest that he took on the name Patrick , which comes from the Latin for “father figure”.
3. St Patrick’s colour was blue, not green
Originally the Saint’s colour was blue,which you can still see on ancient Irish flags. However, over the years, green took over as the predominant colour. This switch may originate from the 1798 Irish rebellion where green clover became a symbol of nationalism. By the 1600s, revellers wore green decorations, ribbons and shamrock to mark the occasion. Why the shamrock? St Patrick is said to have used it to teach Irish pagans about the Holy Trinity.
4. The shortest ever St Patrick’s Day Parade
This odd statistic belongs to the village of Dripsey, Co. Cork, and is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records at measuring just 23.4 metres. Conveniently, and not coincidentally (we suspect) that is also exactly the distance between the village’s two pubs, The Weigh Inn and The Lee Valley!
5. St Patrick was not even Irish
“Yer man” was born in Wales in 415AD into a Christian family. When he was 16 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and ended up on the Slemish Mountain, Co. Antrim, working for a pig farmer named Milchu.
6. St Patrick’s Day Caribbean Style
Probably the most exotic St Patrick’s Day celebrations take place in the Caribbean Island of Montserrat. In the 17th century, Irish catholic workers fled other English-owned islands such as St Kitts due to friction with the protestant settlers there. The March 17th celebrations also mark the occasion of a failed revolt by the enslaved Africans. Over the years, an Afro-Irish culture grew, combing colonial culture and African pride, so that St Patrick’s Day is now the centrepiece of a week-long celebration.
7. How to celebrate without a drink!
Attend Special Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral with its famous choir. Until the late 1960s, St Patrick’s Day was considered a holy day of obligational (it fell in Lent), beside which, getting drunk was viewed as a sin, and so all pubs in Ireland closed. Instead of having a drink, people celebrated by attending Mass, visiting family, or if they really craved excitement, attending a dog show!
8. Fill your wallet before the big day
It’s a good idea to visit the ATM the day before, as over a million people take part in the festivities, causing long queues; ATMs sometimes even run out of money, and as it is a bank holiday, are not refilled until the next day.
9. Go green and arrive early
Wear as much shamrock and green as possible and get there at least an hour before the Parade, longer if possible. Take local advice on the best places to stand, and when to get there before the crowds blot out all chance of seeing. If you can get hold of a small stool to stand on (some of the locals bring their own stepladders!), so much the better.
10. Watch the All-Ireland sporting finals
Hurling is an outdoor field sport that has been played for almost 3,000 years in Ireland, Gaelic Football is only a mere couple of hundred years old. The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) All-Ireland finals will take place on 17th March at Croke Park Stadium. Watch O’Loughlin Gaels take on Clarinbridge in the hurling final at 2pm, and then at 3:45pm, the football final will see St Brigid’s play Crossmaglen Rangers.