St Patrick's Day facts

Big celebrations take place every year on 17 March, to mark St Patrick's Day. The patron saint of Ireland is honoured around the globe and one of the largest parades take place in New York – 13 per cent of whose residents are of Irish ancestry.

Here are some more facts about Ireland and the big man himself, to get you in the mood for St Patrick's Day, wherever you're celebrating.

1. St Patrick wasn't Irish

Patrick was born into relative wealth in Britain, then kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. He eventually escaped before returning to spread the word of God.

2. Shamrock symbolises the holy trinity

Upon his return to Ireland as a bishop, he used a Shamrock to explain the notion of the father, the son and the holy spirit, to the king of Ireland – King Laoghaire. The King was so impressed he converted to Christianity.

3. There were no snakes in Ireland

Legend has it that Patrick drove all the snakes from the land into the sea. However, there's no evidence that snakes have ever inhabited the country.

4. Guinness is an Irish favourite

A pint of Guinness

More than 10 million glasses of Guinness stout are enjoyed every single day around the world – 1.8 billion pints are sold globally every year. Currently brewed in more than 150 countries, a 'perfect pour' of the stuff takes 199.50 seconds (including rest).

5. Chicago goes green

A tradition for more than 40 years, every year the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers use an environmentally friendly dye to turn the Chicago River a perfect shade of green.

6. St Patrick's jawbone was prized

After his death, St. Patrick’s jawbone was allegedly preserved and used for good fortune during times of childbirth, fits and to ward off the ‘evil eye’.

7. The Blarney Stone is a St Patrick's Day symbol

Blarney Castle

Kissing the famous stone – a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in Ireland – is alleged to endow the kisser with the gift of the gab.

8. Four-leaf clovers are real

The real four-leaf clover comes from the White Clover plant – considered to be the original shamrock. The leaves of Pepperwort and Water Clover are commonly passed off as shamrocks.

9. There are more Irish people in the US

The number of US residents claiming Irish ancestry is roughly seven times the total number of people living in the Republic of Ireland. The traditional St Patrick's Day dish in North America is corned beef with cabbage.

10. Irish pubs were shut on St Patrick’s Day

From 1905 until the 1970s, all pubs were closed across the country on 17 March by law.

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January 2013