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Posted on Feb 19, 2015

A Few Things You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day

A Few Things You Didn’t Know About St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day – the holiday where people everywhere drink questionable amounts of adult beverages and listen to the Flogging Molly discography on repeat. Oh yeah, and celebrate Irish culture, or something.

Joking aside, it’s one of our favorite holidays of the year, mostly because you can wear silly costumes in public and nobody will bat an eye. Halloween 2015 is quite a ways off, so we’ll gladly take any day where Leprechaun hats and shamrock shades are socially acceptable forms of fashion. (Speaking of fashion, did you see Miss Ireland at the last Miss Universe costume competition? She definitely wore a thing that existed.)

Anyway, we’re about a month away from St. Patty’s right now, and even though March 17 is a Tuesday this year which might not be the ideal party night, we’re still expecting lots of people to call in sick to work on Wednesday.

Today, we’re sharing some facts about St. Patrick’s Day that you probably didn’t know, as well as some quick St. Patrick’s Day costume ideas and tips to get you in the mood.

 

Shamrocks aren’t official symbols of Ireland.shamrock-photo

Photo: graymalkn|Flickr
Kissing the Blarney Stone gives is said to give you the gift of gab – the ability to skillfully flatter, persuade, and lie. Does that mean it can be considered a sham rock?

Anyway, the shamrock or three-leaf clover is a common symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and is also commonly associated with Ireland itself, as a representation of the Emerald Isle’s endless green field. Despite all the Shamrock Shakes in the world, though, the official symbol of Ireland is really the harp, which you’ll find on another traditional St. Patrick’s Day drink.

Harps have been on Irish flags and coins since the 1500s and were formerly made the national symbol of Ireland when the country declared its independence in 1921. Shamrocks just look pretty.

 

Four leaf clovers technically aren’t all that rare.four-leaf-clovers

More shamrock facts! Why not?

In nature, about one in every ten thousand three-leaf shamrocks suffers the presumably horrifically painful genetic mutation that turns it into a four-leaf clover, but all the four-leaf clovers that get sealed in plastic and sold as good luck charms are mass-engineered. Some growers produce ten thousand of them a day, which probably dilutes the luckiness quite a bit.

Also, comparatively speaking, four leaf clovers are incredibly common next to some other variants. Five-leaf clovers can be found in the wild at about double the rarity of their four-leaf brothers – they’re uncommon enough that bastions of journalism such as The Daily Mail write entire stories when somebody finds one.  They also wrote one about this boy who found a seven-leaf clover, which is about a one-in-a-quarter-of-a-billion find. That’s billion, with a B.

The most-leaved clover ever found had 56 leaves, found by farmer Shigeo Obara in 2009. The immense good luck bestowed upon Mr. Obara by this find caused endless rainbows of money and unicorn blood to erupt from his every orifice. Probably.

 

St. Patrick’s Day is an official public holiday in only four places.old-map-of-ireland-dublin

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have every St. Patrick’s Day off? Think of all the extra drinking you could do! Unfortunately for us, we’re located in the States where that isn’t the case.

It’s not the case in most of the world, either. Lots of places celebrate the holiday, but it’s only government-sponsored in four places. Obviously, one of them is Ireland, and equally obviously, another is Northern Ireland.

The other two are Montserrat and Newfoundland. Um, okay.

Actually, they’re both probably more Irish than you think. Montserrat is a British Territory that was originally heavily settled by the Irish. Their flag and coat of arms feature Erin (i.e., Ireland if Ireland were a chick), and the Irish harp.

As for Newfoundland, everyone knows about the Scandinavian explorer Leif Erikson who landed at and established settlements in North America around the year 1000, thereby totally smoking Columbus by a couple centuries. Even pre-dating that, though, was the Voyage of St. Brendan, which was a journey by an Irish monk not named Patrick which may have “discovered” Newfoundland first.

The tale was written down in the 10th Century and is mostly pure mythology, but scholars believe it is rooted in fact. Wikipedia has a sweet Cliff Notes version here with highlights such as “They find an island of grapes, and stay for 40 days.” Maybe they also ate some other plants that made them hallucinate all the stuff about demons and giant whale-islands.

 

St. Patrick’s color was blue, not green.

saint-patrick-blue-robesPatrick, the patron saint of JPEG compression.
The reason for this is that blue was simply the original “official” color of Ireland. This Irish flag from the 12th Century featured three crowns on a blue field, and the Royal Standard of Ireland, used until the 19th Century, was blue as well. This design is almost identical to the current Flag of the President of Ireland, too.

Patrick often used the color in his vestments and emblems, and literally never had anything to do with the color green at all. There’s even an entire Wikipedia article about St. Patrick’s blue. In other words, if you wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, you’re basically desecrating centuries of tradition and culture.

Just kidding. Green might not have been “the most Irish color” when St. Patrick was alive, but it has just as much significance. Green harp flags (like the blue harp flags, but with 100% more greenness) started being used in the 1600s to represent Confederate Ireland, which was also known as the Confederation of Kilkenny (insert South Park joke here). As such, the green band in the modern Irish flag represents Gaelic Irish tradition

 

Until the 1970s, drinking in public was banned on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.beer-in-glass-close-up

The blue versus green thing makes sense, but no alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day? In Ireland? You’ve got to be kidding.

As it turns out, a lot of people actually used to take religious holidays very seriously. We know this concept seems totally alien nowadays, but just take our word for it. In 1903, the Irish government passed a law that made St. Patrick’s Day an official religious holiday, and since boozing it up is typically frowned upon by the Catholic Church, all the pubs in Ireland would close down for the day. Obviously, people could still drink in the privacy of their own homes, but no bars meant no going out for beers (boo!). This was reversed in 1970, when St. Patrick’s Day was made an Irish national holiday, detached from religion in the eyes of the law. Now, it’s pretty much a crime not to drink on St. Patrick’s Day (yay!).

 

According to Irish folklore, there are no female leprechauns.

Well, the texts and manuscripts can say whatever they want, but we’re pretty sure this one’s actually just wrong. Here are some right now:

female-leprechauns

Can’t argue with photographic evidence, folks.  It’s, like, science.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Costumes

Since we’ve just established that sexy leprechaun costumes are obviously 100% historically accurate, here a couple other options for those prepared to rock some extra St. Patty’s style for their pub crawl this year.

This leprechaun costume has all the required features – an amazingly stylish jacket, an oversized hat, a big green bowtie, and matching green knickerbockers. (That is the only acceptable term for “leprechaun pants. There is no substitute.) You’ll just need to supply the beer, since we’re a costume company and not a bar. This St. Patrick’s Day Suit, on the other hand, is great for pub-goers who take their drinking more seriously. It’s suave, clean-cut, professional, and also completely covered in a fantastically eye-searing barrage of shamrocks. In a good way, though.

Of course, a simple St. Patrick’s Day accessory or two will suffice for most bar hoppers. This leprechaun T-shirt has a slot for your smartphone – download the free app to give him some crazy eyes. Also, a green afro  or leprechaun hat can be worn with any outfit, because they’re hats.  No need to over-complicate things.

 


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