Did You Know - 7 St. Patrick's Day Traditions Explained

17 March, 2016

We love the St. Patrick's Day traditions; pinching those who don't wear green, boiling up the corned beef & cabbage or heading to the pub for a pint or four of Guinness but do you really know why? Here's seven St. Paddy's Day traditions explained.

1. Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick — brace yourself — was not actually Irish. Patrick was a nobleman born in about 400 A.D. in Britain and kidnapped by Irish pirates at the age of 16, said Philip Freeman, author of St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography.
Patrick was born into a religious family, but was an atheist early in his life. However, he rediscovered his faith while enslaved in Ireland.
After 17 years as a slave, St. Patrick escaped Ireland and found his way home, but returned to Ireland as a missionary.
"He said he was ready to die in Ireland in order to make his mission successful," Freeman said.
It's unclear if St. Patrick did in fact die in Ireland, but March 17 is widely believed to be the day of his death, according to Freeman.

2. Green River in Chicago is a family affair:
Another unique tradition that has grown in popularity every year is the annual dyeing of the Chicago River for St. Patrick's Day.

If you've never had the chance to see it, you can watch a timelapse here:

The Butler and Rowan family clans are responsible for turning the murky water bright green, and they've done it for more than 50 years.
The only way to become part of the six-person boat crew is to be related by blood or marriage to either Mike Butler or Tom Rowan, according to The Chicago Tribune.  Each year, the crew shakes an orange powder — a top secret recipe — into the Chicago River from a sifter and it stays green for about five hours.

3. Parades
St. Patrick's Day began as a religious holiday in Ireland but became a celebratory affair because of Irish Americans,.
In the United States, St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated with banquets at elite clubs in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., Meagher said.
New York City hosted the first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1762, and by the mid-19th century parades were common, he said.

4. Shamrocks
Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity but there's no evidence St. Patrick ever did that.
Shamrocks in lore go back to at least the 17th century. People wore shamrocks on their coats and closed the day by "drowning the shamrock" — placing it in a glass of whiskey before drinking.

5. Gobs and gobs of Guinness:
The Irish stout is the drink of choice on St. Patrick's Day.

On a typical day, Americans drink about 600,000 pints of the Dublin-based beer. But on St. Patrick's Day, about 3 million pints of Guinness are downed, according to Guinness.
Planning on drinking a pint on today? Tips from Guinness on the perfect pour: Tilt the glass at 45 degrees when pouring until it is three-quarters full, then let the beer settle before filling the glass completely to the top.

6. Getting Pinched For Not Wearing Green
It's thought that the pinching started in the early 1700s, about the time that awareness of St. Patrick's as a holiday came to the fore, too, in Boston, in the Massachusetts colony.

They thought if you wore green, it made you invisible to the Leprechauns, which was good because they would pinch anyone they could see. So the pinching is to warn and remind you about the Leprechauns.

Other explanations:
• Pinching gives you a bruise so you can have some green on you.
• Irish settlers who tried to get their kids to behave by telling them that fairies would come pinch them.

7. Corned beef and cabbage
Although a classic St. Patrick's Day meal, corned beef and cabbage is more American than Irish.
Irish Americans in the 19th century were mostly poor. The most affordable meat available was corned beef. And cabbage? It's a spring vegetable and it's cheap.