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13 things you probably didn't know about St Patrick's Day

Where was the first parade? What other country has a national holiday today? And where is the world’s largest shamrock?

1. St Patrick’s name wasn’t actually Patrick.

His real name was actually Maewyn Succat. Seriously.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

2. The very first parade didn’t take place in Ireland.

It actually happened in Boston in 1737 and was organised by 27 Irish emigrants living in the city who wanted to do something to commemorate their heritage.

3. JFK once forgot about Patrick’s Day while he was president. Awkward.

John F Kennedy had a lot on his plate in the first 100 days after his inauguration as US president in 1961 – so maybe that’s why he forgot about Patrick’s Day until Ireland’s ambassador to the US, Thomas Kiernan,  turned up at the White House with a bowl of shamrock on 17 March. His staff apparently had to dig up a green tie for the president for the photographs.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

4. All that green stuff isn’t quite accurate

The actual colour associated with St Patrick is blue; green only became a thing in the 19th century when it was revived because of its traditional association with Irish myths and legends.

5. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a national holiday in Ireland

It’s also a national holiday on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, a tiny island with around 4,000 inhabitants which became home to a large number of Irish emigrants in the 17th century. Montserrat is holding an entire week of celebrations, including a Patrick’s Day dinner, a calypso competition and a church service.

(Image: Island of Montserrat Facebook page)

6. More than 10 kilometres of barriers will be used throughout the St Patrick’s Festival in Dublin.

That’s more than 4,500 barriers, fact fans.

(Brian O’Leary/Photocall Ireland)

7. The shortest Patrick’s Day parade took place in the village of Dripsey in Cork

The parade spanned just 77 feet between the two pubs in the village.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

8. The world’s largest shamrock is in Nebraska

The town of O’Neill (“Nebraska’s Irish capital”, apparently) started drawing a giant shamrock on its motorway every year for Patrick’s Day in the 1980s. In the summer of 1998, the people of the town raised enough money to make the concrete shamrock permanent and, technically, the world’s largest shamrock.

Irish dancers dancing on the shamrock in O’Neill in 2012 (Image: O’Neill Nebraska Chamber of Commerce/Facebook)

9. The parade route in Dublin today is more than 3 kilometres long.

It starts at Parnell Square and finishes up just past St Patrick’s Cathedral. It will be viewed by 500,000 spectators in the city and watched by more than one million more on television and the internet.

(Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

10. Public drunkenness on Patrick’s Day isn’t  a new thing

For all the hand-wringing about how terrible it may be, people have been getting drunk on Patrick’s Day for a long time. This New York Times report from 19 March 1860 jumps straight in, noting that “there were a great many persons very much intoxicated” at the city’s parade. It also contains one of the best descriptions of the phases of drunkenness that we’ve ever read, where the writer describes seeing:

…officers waiting on men and women in all stages of intoxication, from that balmy condition in which a man swears eternal friendship to all the world, and is anxious to embrace everyone he meets, to that in which he is unable to walk without tying knots in his legs, though supported by an official friend on either side.

(Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland)

11. You know that bowl of shamrock the Taoiseach traditionally gives the US president? It’s destroyed almost immediately by the US Secret Service.

For security reasons, you’re not allowed to give a food or floral gift to the US president.

(Photocall/DFA)

12. You can read St Patrick’s own words in some of his manuscripts which have survived to today.

There’s an entire State-funded website dedicated to Patrick’s writings which give us much of the information we know about his life and teachings.

(Screengrab via Confessio.ie)

13. No, there were no snakes in Ireland.

Patrick’s writings don’t contain any references at all to snakes – or to shamrocks, for that matter. Both are part of the lore which grew around him after his death. But you knew that one.

Got any interesting facts about St Patrick’s Day? Let us know in the comments section

Read: Here’s why everyone should stop calling it ‘St Patty’s Day’ >

Read: 12 actual t-shirts that show how the world sees Ireland >

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