St. Patrick's Day - The Truth Behind the Legend(s)

St. Patrick’s Day is one of those strange holidays that you aren’t quite sure why you are celebrating but gladly take the excuse to. All I know is that I better wear something green so I don’t get pinched, and I should indulge in some green beer because, well, when else am I going to? But this year, I started to think about why and how all these little St.-Patrick’s-Day-isms came about. Who is St. Patrick? Who decided we had to wear the color green? Is there really a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? Well I’m here to de-mythify the man behind the holiday and also get down to the bottom of why these traditions came about in the first place. After reading this, I’d advise you to host a trivia game for your friends on the 17th. But don’t worry we won’t tell them it’s rigged….it’s the luck of the Irish after all right?!


Who is St. Patrick?

Well for starters, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. Rather, Patrick was born in England in A.D. 390. At 16, he was kidnapped sent to Ireland to tend sheep as a slave in the countryside. While there, he had a religious conversion and suddenly became very passionate about the Christian faith. He was then ordained as a priest by a bishop and spent his life trying to convert the Irish to Christianity. After his death on March 17th, A.D. 461, Patrick was mostly forgotten. It wasn’t until centuries later that mythology grew around his life and he was honored as the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is his Saint Day.


Why the color green?

The knights in the Order of St. Patrick actually wore a color known as “St. Patrick blue.” It is speculated that the green color came about during the Irish independence when supporters wore the color out of solidarity.


What is a leprechaun?

According to folklore, leprechauns are fairies - but not your sweet, Disney movie fairies. Rather, they are tricksters and deceitful. The word “leprechaun” is derived from the Irish "leath bhrogan," which means “shoemaker.”  Thus, although leprechauns are usually associated with treasure and gold, their true vocation is not merely as glamorous. Instead, they are humble shoemakers.  As legend has it, if one were to discover and capture a leprechaun then they can barter his freedom for treasure!


Is there really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow originated from Irish folklore. There are multiple legends behind the origin of this tradition. Many speculate that the Vikings dominated the Irish land and accumulated treasure through stealing and stowed it in the countryside. When the Vikings left, they left some of their treasure behind. That’s when the leprechauns took it and considered it now theirs. Since they inherited stolen goods, they became wary and distrustful that others wouldn’t try to steal it from them. So, the leperchauns buried it deep underground. Legend has it that when a rainbow appears, it ends where the pot of gold is buried.


Why a Shamrock?

Patrick had used a three leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Convertors wore the leaf as a symbol of their faith in the 17th and 18th centuries.


Who decided green beer was a good idea?

The first reference to green beer was in an article in 1914 which made note of a social club in New York City serving green beer to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The drink was attributed to Dr. Curtin who achieved the concoction by adding a drop of “wash blue” dye into a certain amount of beer. The drink didn’t catch on or become popular as a tradition, however, until the 1950s.


Why do we get pinched if we don’t wear green?

According to folklore, wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day makes you invisible to those pesky leprechauns. Why would you want to be invisible to a leprechaun you may ask? Well that’s because if you don’t they will be able to see you and pinch you!

So there you have it - all of the wonderful, kitschy traditions of St. Patrick’s Day explained! If you have any more burning questions about this wonderful day  tweet us at @mdm_la.


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