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St. Patrick's Day Fascinating Facts

Whether you're celebrating your Irish heritage, or celebrating being Irish for the day, enjoy these interesting stories from Irish history, legend and lore.

Was St. Patrick Labor Trafficked? Maybe...

Much of what is known about St. Patrick's life has been interwoven with folklore and legend. Despite his Irish notoriety, historians generally believe that St. Patrick was born around the year 390 in what is now England, Scotland or Wales.

As the story goes, he was kidnapped into slavery at age 16 and sold as a slave to a Celtic priest in Northern Ireland. After toiling for six years as a shepherd, he escaped to a monastery in Gaul (around present-day France), where he converted to Christianity. That’s where he became a priest and then eventually a bishop.

He returned to Ireland in 432 as a missionary, where he played a major role in converting the Irish to Christianity. After his death, he was named Ireland’s patron saint.

A Painful History and Fight for Freedom

There's a small island in the Caribbean where the majority of the population claims Irish heritage. Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” Montserrat is the only other country besides Ireland that celebrates March 17th as a public holiday to commemorate the nine slaves who lost their lives in the failed rebellion of March 17, 1768.

The Irish landed on this small island in 1632 to escape English oppression. By 1678, the island was also home to Anglo-Irish, English, European traders, and African slaves. These stolen Africans sought to free themselves, choosing St. Patrick’s Day in 1678 to revolt as most most of the island would be drunk from celebration. But their plans were discovered; nine people lost their lives, and another 30 were imprisoned and sold off the island.

Although the rebellion was a failure, slavery on the island would eventually be abolished in 1834. Montserrat turned this horrific moment in history into an opportunity to celebrate and to educate others by combining their Irish and African heritage, celebrating one’s painful history and fight for freedom.

If you visit the island on St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll get your passport stamped with an Irish shamrock!

Before There Was Millions of Pints of Guinness Consumed...

Yes, Saint Patrick's Day was a non-drinking religious day. It was considered a more solemn, strictly religious occasion in Ireland for most of the 20th century, and until the 1970s, Irish law prohibited pubs from opening on March 17 as a mark of respect. Imagine closing pubs on March 17th today. Times have certainly changed.

Once it became a national holiday in the 1970s, pubs became a go-to spot for celebration and today the country welcomes hordes of green-clad tourists for parades, drinks, and perhaps the reciting of a few limericks.

It Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring To It...

Many Irish historians believe that Saint Patrick's real name was probably Maewyn Succat, and then changed his name to “Patricius” after becoming a priest. In Old Irish, this name translates to Patraic, which is Patrick in English.

Maewyn Succat was born in the second half of the 4th century, so it is little wonder that the details of his life are a little sketchy, to say the least. So much so, even the year of his birth is debated, some scholars believing it was the year 373 and some 390. Some believe Maewyn Succat was born in the lowlands of Scotland, and others say it was Wales.

So, Happy Maewyn Succat Day! By the way, does anyone know how to pronounce "Maewyn Succant"?

"Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?" Well, About That...

Among the legends associated with St. Patrick is that he stood atop an Irish hillside and banished snakes from Ireland—prompting all serpents to slither away into the sea.

In fact, modern scientists suggest that the job might not have been too hard. According to the fossil record, snakes never occupied the Emerald Isle in the first place.

Before that, the region was covered in ice and would have been too cold for the reptiles. Water has surrounded Ireland since the last glacial period and, like the islands of Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica, the surrounding seas have kept snakes out since. The only snakes that can be found in Ireland now are pet snakes.

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