St. Patrick's Day is one of the world's most widely celebrated holidays, but due to the proliferation of festivities around it the true story behind St. Patrick is often lost. To rectify this, we rounded up nine bits of trivia about St. Patrick's Day.

1. St. Patrick wasn't Irish, but he is Ireland's patron saint. Patrick was actually born in Britain, when it was ruled by the Roman in the 4th century. He is the country's patron saint because he brought Christianity to the pagan isle.

A stained glass image of Saint Patrick at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Port Clinton, Ohio. (Credit: ‘Nheyob’, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons) A stained glass image of Saint Patrick at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Port Clinton, Ohio. (Credit: ‘Nheyob’, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

2. He was first brought to Ireland by force, but returned because of a vision. At the age of 16, Patrick was abducted by Irish pirates and brought to the island as a slave, where he remained for six years. He wrote that this time was critical to his spiritual development and led to his conversion to Christianity. He finally escaped and returned to his family in Britain in his 20s. After studying at an abbey, a vision called him to return to Ireland where he baptised, converted and ordained the pagan people.

3. The shamrock has a Christian connotation. The three-leaved clover has become synonymous with St. Patrick and the holiday, but it was originally used by the saint as a symbol of the holy trinity in his teachings.

St. Patrick stepping on a snake. Image: Getty Images St. Patrick stepping on a snake. Image: Getty Images

4. While legend says that St. Patrick drove out snakes from Ireland, that’s actually geographically impossible. Due to the Ice Age and the country's island status, no snakes actually ever lived in Ireland, so this bit of folklore is false. However, the concept of banishing snakes is most likely a metaphor for driving sin out of the country because of St. Patrick’s Christian evangelism.

5. 17 March is the anniversary of St. Patrick's death. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, St. Patrick is venerated on the day of his death, 17 March, 471 AD.

St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. Image: Getty Images St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. Image: Getty Images

6. In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a national and religious holiday. The country observes St. Patrick's Day as a national holiday filled with festivity today, but until the 1970s, it was primarily a religious affair and all bars and pubs were closed.

The Emerald Isle The Emerald Isle

7. Green wasn't the colour originally associated with St. Patrick. It was actually blue. However, because of Ireland's predominantly green landscape, and its moniker of the Emerald Isle, green became associated with St. Patrick during the Irish independence movement.

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. Image: Yifang (Evonne) Liu/ MEDILL The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. Image: Yifang (Evonne) Liu/ MEDILL

8. Outside of Ireland, the biggest celebrations are in New York and Chicago. Due to Irish migration and diaspora, the United States is home to over 30 million people of Irish descent. New York holds an annual parade with 250,000 people on St. Patrick's Day and Chicago dyes the Chicago River green with 40 tons of dye. Boston was the first place to host a St. Patrick's Day celebration in the US in 1737.

9. The leprechaun has no relation to St. Patrick. Leprechauns are in fact mischievous fairies from Irish folklore, who, according to legend, store their pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Rainbows are a frequent phenomenon in Ireland because of its rainy climate. As St. Patrick's Day became increasingly a celebration of Irish culture and heritage, leprechauns became part of the holiday's iconography.

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