Beyond the blarney: Breaking down facts, myths, traditions of St. Patrick’s Day

(KTVX) — When you think about St. Patrick’s Day, you might catch yourself thinking about beer, parties, shamrocks, getting pinched if you’re not wearing green, random people talking about how “Irish” they suddenly are, and of course, leprechauns.

But as you may already know, there is much more to the day than what society displays.

Who is St.Patrick?

This green holiday is actually the celebration of St. Patrick, a patron saint of Ireland, one of Christianity’s most widely known figures.

According to historians, St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish and Patrick wasn’t even his name. He was born in Britain — not Ireland — to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. And his name was actually Maewyn Succat, which he didn’t really care for, so he chose Patrick instead.

If Patrick was born in Britain, how did he become an Irish icon? Well, it’s because he was taken prisoner by a group of Irish pirates at the age of 16 and held in captivity for six years.

“At the age of 16, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family’s estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity,” historians say.

As a captive, Patrick spent his days away from people, constantly outdoors and herding sheep. In time, he grew lonely and afraid, and “turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian,” historians say. This new revelation led him to escape confinement and become reunited with his family.

But according to historians, as he returned to Britain, he had a vision that the people of Ireland were calling him back to minister to them about God. So he traveled to France, trained at a monastery, dedicated his life to learning, and then 12 years later, returned to Irish shores as a Bishop, sent with the Pope’s blessing.

Folklore: Shamrocks, snakes and leprechauns

The meaning behind shamrocks

Have you ever wondered why the shamrock was such a big deal? Well according to historians, it is simply because Patrick used them to explain the holy trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day revelers wear a shamrock out of tradition.

St. Patrick and the snakes

According to legend, St. Paddy, drenched in green attire, stood on a hilltop and waved his staff to herd all the slithering creatures into the sea, expelling them from the Emerald Isle. The legend says there hasn’t been a snake seen in Ireland since 461 AD.

This folklore is a myth and, according to historians, not meant to be taken literal.

So why has St. Patrick been so heavily hailed as the hero that banished snakes from Ireland?

Historians say some believe that the snakes often symbolize evil in literature, so when Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, that meant he rid Ireland of “evil” paganism and brought Christianity to the green isle.

What is the deal with leprechauns?

Why is St. Patrick’s Day littered with leprechauns? Well according to old Celtic beliefs and Irish fables, these small-bodied fellows are creatures that can use their magical powers to serve good or evil. And with these tiny people being so deeply rooted in the Irish culture, it makes sense for them to be apart of the holiday.

If you’re not familiar with the original legend of the leprechaun, it goes like this:

Leprechauns are very small men who were known to be shoemakers and every so often, they would hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows.

According to legend, if you managed to catch a leprechaun, you’d be granted three wishes in exchange for setting him free. But you would have to be super careful because these pint-sized creatures were also known to be major tricksters and could manipulate your requests.

Why do we wear green for St.Patrick’s day?

Wearing green actually stems from the belief of leprechauns. Historians say wearing green makes you invisible to them and gives you a better chance of snagging one. So be prepared!

Others believe the color will bring good luck, while some wear it to honor their Irish ancestry.

Best of luck to you this St. Patrick’s Day.