St. Patrick's Day 101

A quick guide to St. Patrick's Day

By Hugh Upsher

Do South Africans need an excuse to drink on a weekday? Not really, but once a year old St. Patrick comes to town like a drunk version of Santa Claus, dyeing our beers green for the day. Have you ever wondered if the cultural significance of this special day goes beyond wearing a green T-shirt and consuming irresponsible amounts of beer? Luckily for you I’ve scraped the surface of St. Patrick’s Day trivia to bring you some A-grade pub banter that is guaranteed to make your friends think you’re an annoying smart ass.   

What is a St. Patrick? 

The first thing to note is how us South Africans celebrate the bastardized American adaptation of the Irish St. Patrick’s day. Originally a Christian religious holiday commemorating the death of Saint Patrick, who was credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland, the modern incarnation celebrated in Irish styled pubs the world over is more closely associated with baskets of chicken nuggets than with any fifth century Romano-British Christian missionary.

He’s not even Irish?!?!?!

St. Patrick was actually born in Britain and was only brought over to Ireland after being captured as a slave when he was 16-years old. After six years of slave labour he decided to make a run for it, only to be captured again, this time in France. The fifth century sure was a tough time to be alive. After sixty days in captivity he had the brilliant idea to head back to Ireland and bring the teachings of Christianity with him. Somehow this worked out for him, and the rest is history.

There are zero snakes on Ireland

Legend has it that beyond his prolific religious work, St. Patrick also managed to drive all the snakes out of Ireland with his Saintly superpowers. This is of course nonsense as snakes never inhabited Ireland in the first place. But why let facts get in the way of a good story, eh? (Now I can’t stop thinking about the fictional superpower that would give a man the ability to tell all snakes to stuff off forever...)

The shamrock ain’t lucky at all

The green clover that is widely associated with luck, leprechauns and tacky St. Patrick’s Day party decorations is in no way a lucky charm, four leaves or otherwise. The shamrock was supposedly used by St. Patrick to illustrate the connected nature of the holy trinity. It was originally worn on St. Patrick’s day for its religious signifigance and has since been adopted as a symbol of Irish pride. Ireland being noted as a particularly unlucky nation, especially when it comes to doing well in sports.

So there you have it. Forget about the green beer, leprechauns and pots of gold this St. Patrick’s Day. Instead take some time to focus on the man himself. The next time you find yourself getting sloshed in a silly hat surrounded by a sea of green, you’ll know who to thank.