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    Today St. Patrick's Day is more about national pride than a religious holiday.AP

Dusted off your giant green leprechaun hat or that “Kiss Me I’m Irish” tee yet? Have you dug out your recipes for green confections and corned beef and cabbage? Well, it’s about that time again. St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.

Gangs of rowdy revelers ‘crawling’ from pub to pub, masses of green-clad people marching to bagpipes in city streets, and assortments of green shamrock decorated treats are now some things equated with St. Patrick’s Day across the globe. But that’s not how it always was.

It started out as a religious feast day in the ninth or tenth century to commemorate Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Born in the fourth century, he was enslaved as a teenager and brought to Ireland from his native Britain, but eventually escaped after hearing the voice of God. Years later, the voice urged him to return to Ireland as a missionary and bring Christianity to the people. There, he used clovers to explain the Holy Trinity and converted pagan Druids. Irish Catholics venerate the saint on the anniversary of his death, March 17, by going to mass, praying for missionaries and celebrating with a large meal.

The St. Patrick’s Day that we know — and local bars love — is more about national pride than a celebration of the religious figure. This custom started on American soil with banquets held by Irish charities in Boston. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was in New York City in 1762, when Irish soldiers marched through the city as a way to reconnect with their roots. St. Patrick's Day is now associated with everything “Irish”— green beer, shamrocks, luck, and traditional dishes.

Most of us don’t know all the facts about Saint Patrick or the holiday celebrated in his name. Bet you didn’t know that Saint Patrick wasn’t all about green, or that St. Patrick’s Day is only a public holiday in three places, or that “Saint Patty’s Day” is not on March 17th. To find out the answers to these trivia facts and to learn a few more, click through our slideshow.

  • 1. Drowning the Shamrock.

    Drinking is a big part of St. Patrick’s Day, but sometimes drinking can bring you good luck, not just a hangover. All it takes is a little foliage in your drink. The phrase "Drowning the Shamrock" comes from the custom of floating the shamrock in your whiskey before downing it. The Irish believe that if you do this, you will have a prosperous year. So how about another whiskey?

  • 2. Green politics.

    Green wasn’t Saint Patrick’s color. He was more of a blue guy. As St. Patrick’s Day shifted from just being a religious holiday to a day celebrating Ireland’s history, colors associated with March 17 turned green. On March 17th, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, an uprising against British rule in Ireland, Irish soldiers wore green uniforms as a political statement.

  • 3. Green food coloring.

    Green is everywhere from early March until after St. Patrick’s Day regalia is long gone. We eat green foods and even drink green beer. But that green food coloring can be doing you harm. There have been studies that have linked food coloring to headaches and cancer in lab animals, though you would have to drink much more dye than is found in the beer to cause health problems. So let the green beer flow. 

  • 4. It's a public holiday in other countries.

    People across the globe commemorate the Irish cultural pride holiday, but St. Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday in only three places — Ireland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Montserrat, the Caribbean island nation founded by Irish settlers. It all makes sense. But what gets confusing is March 17th in Montserrat also is the anniversary of a failed slave uprising.

  • 5. Beef is what's for dinner.

    St. Patrick’s Day is usually thought of as more of a drinking and dancing day, than a heavy eating day. However, in 2009 about 26.1 billion pounds of beef and 2.3 billion pounds of cabbage were produced in the United States. That’s a whole lot of corned beef and cabbage.

    Check out more little known facts about this beloved Irish holiday.


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