This year, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be held across Canada as a time honoured tradition since 1824. Toronto and Montreal hold the largest and longest-running parades and festivals in Canada; as we drink green beer and wear green clothes, have we ever thought about the man behind the namesake holiday and where and how these traditions came to be?
Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick was actually an Irish missionary born in Wales, Great Britain. Although he spent much of his early life in Britain, during the Roman Empire no less, he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish pirates and sold into a 6-year slavery stint in Ireland. After escaping and a short time back at home in Wales, he returned to Ireland as a bishop to expand his teachings about bringing together traditions of the old pagan and new Christian religions. Even though Patrick lived during the 4th and 5th centuries, he didn’t become known as a Saint until about the 7th century, which marked the beginning of his large and celebrated following on the anniversary of his death on March 17th.
Canada’s Irish population predominately lives in the eastern part of Canada as it was difficult for the poor immigrants to travel very far past the coast. The immigrants from Ireland were actually the founders of Irish celebrations in North America, and, thus, were born the origins of the celebrations as we know them today.
A few fun facts and how some celebrate the holiday today:
– Canada is home to about 4,544,870 people claiming to have Irish blood.
– In Chicago, about 45 pounds of green vegetable dye has been dumped into the Chicago River for the past 40 years but it only lasts a few hours.
– Guinness, the iconic Irish beer, expects to sell 7.5 million pints on St. Patrick’s Day – almost twice what it sells on a standard day.
– In Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer is illuminated green.