Shamrocks and Shenanigans for All
By Kaya Diebes
St. Patrick’s Day seems to be the one day out of the year that everyone becomes Irish. It’s seen from the countless parades, parties and costumes, and the seemingly never ending supply of green. But did you know that green hasn’t always been associated with St. Patrick’s Day? In fact, St. Patrick used to wear a color known as St. Patrick’s blue.
Some Good Ol’ Facts and Legends
Saint Patrick is British
Saint Patrick was born to Roman parents in either Wales or Scotland in the fourteenth century. He was then brought to Ireland, which he is now commonly associated with. And by the way, green became widely popular because of Ireland’s famous green landscapes.
New York City Becomes Quite the Festive Place
New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the largest in the world. It all started in 1762, and ever since the parade has had 250,000 marchers walk up and down Fifth Avenue every year. And one of the most interesting parts, there are no floats or cars allowed in the parade. With this parade dating back to 1762, it makes this tradition older than the U.S. itself.
Chicago is Feeling the Luck, Too
Even though New York may have one of the biggest parades in the world, Chicago gets just as festive. Ever since 1962, the city has been dumping green dye into the Chicago River. It takes about 40 tons of dye to make the river a festive color.
It’s the Thought That Counts
Not every city is for the big festivals. From 1999 to 2007, the Irish village of Dripsey proudly held the title for the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. The short parade ran only 26 yards between two pubs. Today, however, Hot Springs, Arkansas claims the title with the parade running 98 feet.
There’s a Story Behind the Shamrocks
According to Irish legend, Saint Patrick used the three-leafed plant as analogy to explain the Holy Trinity when he was first introducing Christianity to Ireland. The shamrock has been associated with Saint Patrick ever since.
What Exactly is a Leprechaun?
Leprechauns are fairy-like, supernatural creatures. They are often very elusive, and their rare presence is marked by a faint hammering sound. Leprechauns actually wore red until about the 20th century when green became commonly associated with Ireland. Some may say that the green gives leprechauns the ability to camouflage with the grass and leaves to stay even more well hidden. Stories have said that if you catch one, they will grant you three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Another common tale is that the leprechaun will lead you to their pot of gold they hid at the end of a rainbow.
The Leprechaun’s Economy is Thriving
Leprechauns, from Irish folklore, actually earned that gold they are so expertly guarding. According to the Irish legend, leprechauns spend their time making and mending shoes. That’s some hard work, so you can probably understand why they would be so protective over their pots of gold. It’s said that the leprechauns hide their pots of gold at the ends of rainbows or in mountain tops.
We’ve already covered that New York City and Chicago really go all out, but Dublin, Ireland is giving them a run for their money. Dublin’s celebration lasts from March 16 to March 19. There are boat races, lots of alcohol (especially green beer), music and street performances, and a spectacular parade. The parade attracts about half a million spectators. As part of “greening the city”, national monuments such as the Natural History Museum and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are given a green glow for the special holiday.
This island in the British West Indies, often referred to as the ‘Emerald Isle’, is the only place outside of Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day is considered a public holiday. The country holds a 10-day festival which includes all sorts of activities. There has been a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, a kite festival, singing performances, and so much more.