9 Things You Didn't Know About St. Patrick

Leprechauns, soda bread and green beer have absolutely nothing to do with St. Patrick. In fact, March 17th's celebrations are widely misunderstood, so let's set the record straight on Ireland's patron saint.

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The parades started in America

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The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was created by influential Boston Protestants in 1737 to celebrate the Irish fraction of British communities. The Americanized St. Patrick’s Day Parade traditions didn't hit Ireland until 1975.

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He was kidnapped, sold into slavery, then escaped

"Saint Patrick (window)" by Sicarr - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When he was 16, Patrick was captured and sent to Ireland where he was sold into slavery as shepherd. During this time he became a devout believer in God and claimed he received a vision that showed him how to escape. 

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The shamrock doesn't actually symbolize luck

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St. Patrick used the 3 leaves of the shamrock to symbolize the holy trinity. Lucky leprechauns were definitely not his doing. 

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St. Patrick was British (maybe)

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Not only was Ireland’s patron saint not actually Irish, he probably came from the country that they rebelled against for centuries. However, since he was born circa 387 A.D., the exact country of his birth is very hard to prove definitively. It's even possible he was French.

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St. Patrick didn't drive out anything

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St. Patrick is often credited with "driving out snakes," which represent Pagan beliefs, but this is not entirely true. Paganism's roots in Ireland were strong before and after St. Patrick's Christian missionary work. It's also worth noting that St. Patrick wasn't the first to introduce Christianity to Ireland. 

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He is not a canonized Saint

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By the time canonization was established, people were already calling him Saint Patrick. The Catholic Church basically just jumped on the bandwagon and adopted him into Sainthood. 

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St. Patrick isn't just a Roman Catholic figure

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The association with St. Patrick celebrations and catholicism is mostly due to Irish immigration to America. However, St. Patrick was a Christian missionary during the late 5th century, long before Catholic Church was established. In fact, St. Patrick is venerated within Anglican and Lutheran churches.

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St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the day he probably died

"Saint Patrick's grave Downpatrick" by Man vyi - Own work (own photo). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

No one knows when St. Patrick was born, and no one is absolutely certain he died on March 17th either. After all, record keeping wasn't exactly the priority during the 5th century. However, "Feast Days" for Saints are always observed on the day they (likely) passed. 

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He's credited with an odd Leap Year tradition

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Legend says an Irish nun, St. Bridget, was frustrated that women had to wait for a man to propose according to courting traditions. She took her concerns to St. Patrick who said women should be able to propose, but only on February 29th. This wasn't actually documented as law until 1288 in Scotland.