stained glass of saint patrick
Many Saint Patrick's Day customs are not exactly historically accurate.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a holiday full of parades, corned beef, the color green, and yes, a pint of Guinness or two. 

You might think you know all there is to know about this holiday's namesake, Saint Patrick. But here’s the thing… you’re probably wrong.

In fact, almost every legend – and even some basic facts – that we associate with Saint Patrick and his holiday are false (or at least highly questionable).

So go ahead and forget everything you thought you knew about ol’ Saint Pat, cause we’re here to drink Guinness and bust myths, and we’re all out of Guinness. 

Ready to debunk some of the most common Saint Patrick’s Day beliefs? Here we go!

10. Saint Patrick Is a Saint

Despite his title, Saint Patrick was never actually canonized by the Catholic Church, as no formal process existed at the time, making Saint Patrick a saint in name only (SINO). Did we just make up that acronym? Yes.

saint patrick
Here's how many people envision Saint Patrick. Time to count the things wrong with this picture!

9. Saint Patrick Used a Shamrock

The shamrock is one of the quintessential symbols of Saint Patrick’s Day, and art often depicts Saint Patrick holding one. As the legend goes, Saint Patrick used the three-leaf clover to illustrate the idea of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to the pagan peoples of Ireland. 

Well, turns out that was probably made up. At least, there is zero historical record of Patrick using the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity, so it’s possible that little detail was added much later. 

8. Saint Patrick Was the First to Bring Christianity to Ireland

Many believe that Saint Patrick was a pioneer in spreading Christianity across Ireland. And while he did help evangelize the Irish “heathens” (as he called them), he wasn’t the first to do so. 

That honor goes to the bishop Palladius, sent by Pope Celestine I to Ireland in 431 A.D., at least a year before Patrick arrived. Many historians actually say that some of the stories now attributed to Saint Patrick might actually be about Palladius.

7. The Irish Like to Party on Saint Patrick’s Day

Irish pub exterior
Irish pubs are a common destination on March 17.

Americans are certainly known to flock to bar crawls on Saint Patrick’s Day, but for centuries Saint Patrick’s Day was decidedly not a raucous celebration in Ireland. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Until the mid-20th century, Saint Patrick’s Day was a solemn religious holiday, and pubs were closed in solidarity. The drunken revelry of March 17th is relatively new, and only became a Saint Patrick’s Day mainstay in the last half century or so.

6. Leprechauns Are Involved

From costumes to decor, everyone’s favorite little mischief-makers – Leprechauns – are often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Sure, they’re an important part of Irish folklore, but in reality Patrick had no association with these creatures.

In fact, Leprechauns didn’t appear in Irish legend until centuries after Saint Patrick’s visit to the Emerald Isle. 

5. Corned Beef Is an Irish Staple

Corned beef and cabbage is on just about every restaurant menu in America come March 17th, so you’d be forgiven for assuming it holds some grand significance in Ireland and Irish history. 

On the contrary, rural Irish folks could rarely afford this luxury meat. And it wasn’t popularized until the 20th century, when Irish immigrants in New York City began substituting corned beef for bacon because it was cheaper.

stained glass of saint patrick
Saint Patrick stained glass (via Wikimedia Commons)

4. Saint Patrick Wore Green

Everyone knows that you get pinched if you don’t wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, and Saint Patrick himself is almost always depicted in art wearing green robes. 

But did you know that green was not his color of choice? In fact, blue was far more often the color connected with Patrick.

The color green’s popularity didn’t arise until the 19th century – 1400 years after his death – as Irish independence and Saint Patrick’s Day became intertwined.

3. Saint Patrick Banished Snakes From Ireland

This is a big one. Ireland has no native snakes, and people naturally began wondering why. In one of the most common and enduring myths, it is Saint Patrick who is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. 

But the truth is it's a simple accident of geography and evolution. Snakes never made it to the island, so there weren’t any to drive out.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! While popular culture encourages people to dress up in green and partake in merriment, the...

Posted by Universal Life Church Ministries on Friday, March 17, 2017

So wait, where did this idea originate? Well, some believe that the “snakes” Patrick supposedly drove out of Ireland is a euphemism for “pagans.”

That's because the campaign Patrick led to convert the people of Ireland to Christianity marked the beginning of paganism's decline on the Emerald Isle.

As Christianity continued to grow in popularity in the centuries that followed, pagan peoples were pushed further and further to the fringes – and in some cases, disappeared altogether. 

2. Saint Patrick Was Irish

Ready for this? The patron saint of Ireland… isn’t even Irish! 

Saint Patrick was born in modern-day England, the son of a local political figure named Calpurnius. Patrick would likely have never visited Ireland if he wasn’t captured by pirates and taken across the Irish Sea where he was forced to work as a laborer. It was only after he returned home to Britain that he decided to go back to Ireland to spread the gospel.

1. Saint Patrick Was Named “Patrick”

Wrong again! To finish off our list of myths, the man history knows as Saint Patrick was originally born with a different name. There are conflicting sources, but one leading contender is “Maewyn Succat.” However, he took on the name “Patricius” in his own writings, a pseudonym that was later translated to “Patrick.”

Is there a lesson here? Perhaps the takeaway is that if you don't like the name you were born with, well, change it!

So if you're headed out for some merriment on March 17th this year, go ahead and cheers to a Happy Maewyn Succat Day – and then enjoy the confused looks from your friends who are out of the loop!

42 comments

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Don’t you just love the folklore of Leprechauns, Saints, and Gods? 🍺🍀

    🦁❤️

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    None of this is new to me but is dredged up every March. Why? No idea but I intend to celebrate the day regardless.

    1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

      Yes, the liturgical calendar is designed to repeat every year. This is important to people who think rituals influence the gods.

    2. Seth Tyrssen's Avatar Seth Tyrssen

      Here's a clue: Budweiser.

    3. TheStranger's Avatar TheStranger

      Well, I think It’s important to expose religious lies and myths at every turn and yes, every single year, if not more.

    4. TheStranger's Avatar TheStranger

      Another “fun” fact: The clover is a dogwhistle white supremacist symbol. I don't think this is an accident.

  1. Colin Jack MacLeod MacKenzie's Avatar Colin Jack MacLeod MacKenzie

    Everyone is a little Irish on St Patrick's Day. Except the Scottish. We're still Scottish.

    Happy Paddy's Day, my drunken Irish cousins.

    1. Matthew W Meister's Avatar Matthew W Meister

      Well said, MacLeod!

    2. Colleen Marie Gaffney's Avatar Colleen Marie Gaffney

      ☘️

  1. Canadian Yankee's Avatar Canadian Yankee

    Does any of this really matter. Sadly there are always those that will try and pull icons down and when they do it creates no happiness. I personally don't care what his real first name was, whether he chased snakes or wasn't a great evangulist. I know on March 17 I will be with John and Kay Sullivan, to wonderful and giving people and enjoying the party they will hold for the community.The Irish coffee with flow and the food will be outstanding. I will be Irish for a few hours and then the day will be a wonderful memory.

    1. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

      Patrick's "real" name, was supposed to have been "Maewyn Succat."

      1. Canadian Yankee's Avatar Canadian Yankee

        I would dicuss this with you but obviously you have a challenges when it comes to reading. I clearly said I don't care what his name was.

        Tomorrow I will go to a party and all the people will be singing and happy, a rare island in today's world of doom and gloom. So you go ahead and talk with those who care.

    2. Joseph Eustis's Avatar Joseph Eustis

      That is excellent, enjoy!

  1. Rhonda Irey's Avatar Rhonda Irey

    Yet maybe tis a holiday celebrated with fellowship, liquid barley and hops;, some music to jig by and wearing green to make all others green with envy and jealousy that we as Christians have aquired new birth.

    Maybe those in the jig were not actually Leprechauns, but wee children as they share in the music and dance.

    Wherever the Myth of St. Patrick derived, if I had a been named Maewyn Succat, I'd dub thyself a new name as well!

    Cheers!

    1. Gregory B. Gregory's Avatar Gregory B. Gregory

      Wow!

  1. Dutch Stephen Harbour's Avatar Dutch Stephen Harbour

    what a silly and good fun article eh?

    Praise be to the true God or Yashar'el, Yashar'el being of the original Hebrew language spoken by God's chosen people. The term Yashar’el means the righteous one of EL. Given what we know about the name YAH (I AM) and the word sha (saves), and the letter resh (a man’s head) – Yashar’el means in its remez meaning yah (I AM), sha (saves) resh (the first) EL (of YAH), i.e., the chosen one (the first of whom YAH saves) being the ones the English translation of the bible refers to as Israel. Google this

    My point is so much meaning is lost in translation. May I ask, if the accuser of the brethren, after thousands of years and hundreds of generations, would want you to know the truth of the God who created you? Of course not. These understandings are lost through translation and history and theoretical evidences that are mixed with deception. "Revelation 9-11 KJV 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

    10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

    11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."

    It is the blood of the lamb that saves us from death. Fellow posters are correct to not believe in and fall for the deception of vain traditions of man, but to live sober and of sound mind and good judgement. Do not be deceived because the deceiver does not want you to understand the authority of our One True God Yah. Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children."

    Let us not become vain in our own imaginations but acknowledge the Holy One of Yashar'el who is able to save your eternal soul! It's good to point out the fallacies in the accumulated knowledge of man but let us also point to the One True God who has bled for us all for the salvation of our souls, our families, and all whom He allows to come to the knowledge of the Truth. Live in Truth, be a Truth seeker, the Holy Spirit who was with Jesus (Yeshua) when He said "I Am The Way, The Truth, and The Life, no one comes unto the Father except through Me." No one can come to the knowledge or understanding without first acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord. We have to continue to walk in the light of the truth, being truth bearers, and truth seekers for the kingdom of God and His glory shall prevail for all eternity. Praise Yah, be blessed, amen

  1. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

    Point of information

    Practically everything about Christian mythology, is mythological.

    Ergo, Patrick (sainted, or not) is just as mythological as anyone else in Christian mythology,

    So, my directive to “themonastry.org” is to bestow sainthood on Patrick, at my behest, and I, as a ULC Bishop, will pay the Universal Life Ministry for having done so.

    Please, Universal Life Ministries — make Patrick a Saint, and inform anyone who’s interested, that ULC Bishop Dusenberry, from Broken Arrow Oklahoma, is the clergy-member who preformed this event.

    1. Robert J Rook's Avatar Robert J Rook

      Sorry can't do that, not for someone who chased out the indigenous Pagans from their land, Bad man Patrick!

    2. Gregory B. Gregory's Avatar Gregory B. Gregory

      It's my understanding that the earliest "Christians," that is, followers of "the Christ," or the Anointed One, referred to themselves and each others as "saints" without any formal canonization process involved. So if the historical person now called Patrick was of that persuasion, it is fit and proper to refer to him as a "Saint" ~~ but who knows the beliefs of his Inner Heart?

  1. Ari Joseph Bertine's Avatar Ari Joseph Bertine

    As a Neopagan, I celebrate St. Patty's Day with tongue in cheek, because the "snakes" are back and nowadays it's a bit illegal to chase someone out of a civilized land simply because of their religion. May civilization live long and prosper!

  1. Rev Samantha Counihan's Avatar Rev Samantha Counihan

    im Pagan, im not christian so i never wear green on patrick day, i dont care for the "holiday"

  1. Sean Nettles's Avatar Sean Nettles

    What evidence Does the ulc possesse to make such Preposterous claims regarding Saint Patrick there's a big difference between assumption and factual evidence thus this article is completely false

    1. JustJames73's Avatar JustJames73

      What evidence do you need? Could you provide evidence to the contrary? Have you looked it up on Wikipedia? There are 200 citations there, even if you don't agree with this blog or the Wiki page there's enough to keep you reading for a long time.

      1. Sean Nettles's Avatar Sean Nettles

        Wikipedia is only 80% accurate that is not nearly enough to even consider evidence the History Channel has more accuracy in regards to St Patrick also the National Geographic has been proven to be more accurate than Wikipedia

        1. Kristi's Avatar Kristi

          Comment removed by user.

    2. Matthew W Meister's Avatar Matthew W Meister

      Truly ironic. You are correct in saying that there is a big difference between assumption and factual evidence. When you follow that comment with "thus this article is completely false", I truly hope you are being sarcastic.

  1. Mary's Avatar Mary

    Thank you for this we have been boycotting this holiday for years! and There were never any literal snakes so who and what was he driving out? They lied about snakes k. Lying at a crime scene is a huge red flag. The only ones who lie at a crime scene are the guilty criminals or those who have something to hide. If you lie you lost all credibility.

  1. Sean Nettles's Avatar Sean Nettles

    The accuracy of such citations on Wikipedia which is recorded to only be 80% accurate is not near enough to go on the History Channel has more accuracy

  1. Peter Anthony Gurney's Avatar Peter Anthony Gurney

    We celebrate the fact that we are Irish, and I don't mean plastic Irish like the ones abroad, no I mean Irish living in Ireland.

  1. Tia Coatley's Avatar Tia Coatley

    Love this article! Keep spreading that truth!

  1. Douglas Person's Avatar Douglas Person

    I find it quite amusing. Myths and legends are a natural part of a people's self-identity. It really has little meaning in the current world. The upside is that people get together and have fun. Many Irish immigrated to the U.S. during the great potato famine, where many Irish people perished from starvation. Let's rejoice in our melting pot of many cultures that have come together to have one common identity - American. For me, unfortunately, there is no special day to celebrate my European roots. Perhaps we Dutch should pick a day to celebrate our heritage?

    1. Dutch Stephen Harbour's Avatar Dutch Stephen Harbour

      Hey Doug,

      Yes my great grandmother was among the Irish who immigrated and settled in America. I am grateful to be here and celebrate this day, today, and each new day. All those in Christ will receive the inheritance and our heritage is celebrated everyday because we have been set free. I just wanted to encourage others not only to exchange in these surface level discussions but to seek after deep truths. One of the largest tools of the accuser of the brethren is deception and its been widely spread throughout human history. To each their own and my heart goes out to those who are oppressed through deception, pride, vanity, greed, or the like. I have been made more fully aware of our heritage in Christ and I choose to share this with others through this post. May God continue to bless and enrich everyone thoroughly, all Glory and Honor are His alone and I take no pride in anything I may know but through His Holy Spirit He has made all things known that need to be known for the time they need to be known. Most people are familair with John 3:16 but I encourage anyone reading this to pay attention to verse 19-21.

      John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

      19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

      Let us be truth seekers always and not fall victim to humanistic and vain imaginations and let us not be drunk or distracted by the silliness of any day as we see the day approaching we should prepare. Its taken me a long time to come to this point and I am always a work in progress but I have yielded myself to truth long ago and this is what has preserved me it is God's Holy Sprit the Sprit of Truth Who will reveal all Truth at the appointed time but in the mean time, I felt the need to share with everyone on here including the original posters of the article.

    2. Dutch Stephen Harbour's Avatar Dutch Stephen Harbour

      I would love to celebrate with you today and everyday for the blessed Savior has come, who was and who is and who is yet to come. May I please also share these verses with you. "For the hour has come and now is when the true worshipers will worship in Spirit and in Truth"

      John 4:20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

      21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

      25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

      26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”"

      Traditions are here, there, and everywhere. Like you said, they give meaning and identity to some and could be polarizing to others. For me, there is One Truth Who is Truth and will always be True. I can not deny the Truth of Yah or the Truth of who i am and as others have said in this post, we'll all be judged one day and the bible teaches it will be measured by the measure we use so...thank you for being kind and patient with me brethren, I hope that I did not and I did not mean to offend if so forgive me :)

  1. Brian Patrick Hand's Avatar Brian Patrick Hand

    Does it really matter in the scheme of life? Let those who enjoy, enjoy and those who don't stay quiet. Why sit in judgment of simple cultures of several nations? The quiet tongue is the one best served, we will all be judged eventually by a higher power, w h y waste our judgement on such silliness?

  1. Nelson Bank's Avatar Nelson Bank

    Check the grammar on the Blog button content. Signed, an English teacher

  1. Christopher W Patmore's Avatar Christopher W Patmore

    I have Irish ancestory; & I was raised to think a lot of this was true. Thank you for the article & the education.

  1. Farajallah Michael Yazbek's Avatar Farajallah Michael Yazbek

    Patrick was canonized by the traditions of the day when his relics were discovered many years later. He had not decomposed and was streaming myrrh. At the time of the finding of his body there was no "official" canonization ceremony in place in the Church, which had not split in the great schism yet. The accounts of his history are more accurately held in the Orthodox Church in Constantinople, not the Roman Catholic Church, which was an offshoot of Orthodoxy. It's wise to go to the official church records in the Holy See in Istanbul/Constantinople to get the accurate records prior to 1061 CE.

  1. Bessie Mae Walker's Avatar Bessie Mae Walker

    thank you for this, it's time we all lure these thing ,i will have this in my message !

  1. Dr. Zerpersande, NSC's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande, NSC

    Never thought these things. Had heard about the snake thing but! Like most religious stuff, all you have to do is THINK and if your cognitive abilities are working well your brain responds with ‘NUH UH!!!’

  1. Thomas Denney's Avatar Thomas Denney

    "How the Irish Saved Civilization" is a wonderful book by Thomas Cahill. He points to hermit monks in Ireland who kept study and education alive during the dark ages. Barons on the Continent sent their sons to study with these monks as they were the only bastion of education available in Europe. Much more.

  1. Catherine Marie Boudreau's Avatar Catherine Marie Boudreau

    My stepfather‘s last name is O’Brien. I almost changed my name when I was younger, but decided against it. One year I posted on Facebook about how the only snakes Patrick chased out of Ireland where the pagans and my stepbrother had a fit. His argument? Don’t take my holiday away from me. I told him he should be proud to be Irish, in spite of Patrick, not because of him. He never told me if he agreed or disagreed with us, but we don’t talk that much anymore anyway.

  1. Theresa C. Marquess's Avatar Theresa C. Marquess

    Call it what you will, but on March 17th I will lift my pint of Guinness high and wish you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

  1. David Robert Varndell's Avatar David Robert Varndell

    Good morning; I would like to get my documents Proof that I am an ordane Minister. How do I acquire them?

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