Stuff You Should Know: St. Patrick’s Day

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So, who’s already drunk? We certainly are, but it’s cool, because today is St. Patrick’s Day! It’s the one day of the year when getting hammered at 10am on a Thursday morning is socially acceptable. Why wouldn’t we take advantage?

But there’s more to St. Patrick and his namesake unofficial holiday than green beer and DUI convictions.

Here are ten things you should know about St. Patrick’s Day…

St. Patrick Wasn’t Even Irish

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Yeah, you read that right. The patron saint of Ireland wasn’t actually born in Ireland. He was born in Romano Britain in the 4th century. He was born into a wealthy family, which must have made the fact that he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to live as a slave at the age of 16 an even bigger bummer than usual.

He Heard Voices


Luckily for him, at some point during his life of slavery, he claimed to have heard a voice telling him to escape captivity and board a nearby ship. Judging from St. Patrick’s own words, we have good reason to question whether that voice was actually trying to help or just playing a cruel prank on him.

For starters, the voice told him “You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.” Who travels on an empty stomach? Why all the fasting? In an even bigger dick move, St. Patrick had this to say about the ship this voice claimed was waiting for him…

“And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person.”

Why such an asshole, voice in St. Patrick’s head?

Despite the horrible advice, St. Patrick did manage to escape and make his way back to England.

He Preached the Good Word


Upon returning to the land of Oasis and substandard dentistry, he promptly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest. But those voices once again intervened, this time calling him back to Ireland to spread Christianity. Ireland at the time was in the throes of Celtic Polytheism, you see.

Enter Shamrock


According to lore, St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the people of Ireland. And that, kids, is how the shamrock came to be associated with St. Patrick’s Day. And now, we plaster it all over t-shirts that say “Fuck Me, I’m Irish.” Respectful!

There Were Never Any Snakes, Though


That famous story about St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland puts Samuel L. Jackson’s cinematic exploits to shame. Too bad it’s a total fraud. Most evidence suggests that there never were any snakes in Ireland. At least not for 15,000 years or so. The nearest snakes are in Scotland, and Ireland is separated from Scotland by 12 miles of ridiculously cold water. So snakes finding their way to Ireland would be quite a task, unless those motherfucking snakes hopped on a motherfucking plane, of course.

Some people suggest that the snakes referenced in the St. Patrick myth actually refer to Druids, who were way into snake symbolism. He did run most of them out of town, so it makes sense.

St. Patrick’s Day Wasn’t Made in America


We just made it awesome. St. Patrick’s Day has been a minor religious holiday in Ireland for as long as the Rolling Stones have been making albums, since the 9th or 10th century or so.

But the only thing America loves more than a good excuse to get blackout drunk is a good stereotype. So, what started as a day of feast to honor the date of St. Patrick’s death (that’s today!) has, over time, evolved into a general day of appreciation for Irish culture. And if there’s one thing we associate with Ireland here in the US, it’s drinking.

It’s kind of like Cinco de Mayo for gingers!

Green is the New Blue


Initially, blue was the color most associated with St. Patrick, if you can even imagine such a thing. Green started to creep its way into the celebration with the tradition of pinning a shamrock to your lapel. Then, during the 1798 Rebellion, Irish soldiers decided to make a political statement by wearing all green uniforms on March 17th. Just like that, a tradition was born.

Oddly enough, the famous Irish song “The Wearing of the Green” doesn’t refer to the tradition of actually wearing all green, but just to the wearing of the shamrock. Hey, speaking of those shamrocks…

They’re Running Out!

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Thanks to harsh winter weather, shamrocks are in short supply in Ireland right now. As we speak, bogus plants that claim to be but really aren’t shamrocks are flooding the market, bootlegs, if you will.

Now, we know what’s foremost in your mind right now, and let us put you at ease — Irish botanist Dr. Declan Doogue, quite possibly the most Irish-y named Irish person of all time, is hopeful that Barack Obama will still receive a real shamrock from Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen. Disaster averted!

Discerning St. Patrick’s Day Alcoholics Choose Guinness


The world already drinks an astounding amount of tasty, delicious Guinness, approximately 5.5 million pints per day. But on St. Patrick’s Day, that number skyrockets to 13 million pints.

Unfortunately, They Also Choose to Drive


But they don’t drink and drive as much as you might think! If you were to ask people what holiday results in the most drunk driving fatalities, the answers would likely be split between New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. Both answers are incorrect, though. The correct answer is Thanksgiving. An over abundance of time with distant relatives is enough to make anyone drink too much.

Also, most people don’t have the day after St. Patrick’s Day off from work, so the more responsible members of society actually keep the drinking to a reasonable minimum.

So here’s a thought, readers. How about we keep those statistics in line this year? If you’re planning to drink, and we assume you are, do it responsibly. Nothing ruins a casual St. Patrick’s Day hookup like an alcohol induced coma. If you’re planning to drive, do the entire community a favor and take a cab.