St Patrick’s Facts

St Patrick’s Day is approaching, which means another day of boozing, eating, and generally celebrating the wonderful people that are the Irish.

Last year’s St Paddy’s post dealt with the history of the legend himself and how we all celebrate. This year, we have some slightly more unusual facts for you – read on to have your misconceptions shattered!

Chris Hadfield on the ISS celebrating St Patrick’s Day

 

1. The true colour of St Patrick’s Day is blue

St Patrick wore the colour blue which was referred to as “St Patrick’s blue”, which was a kind of light blue. Green was introduced after the Irish independence movement of the late 18th century, despite originally being considered unlucky. St Patrick’s blue is still the Presidential Standard in Ireland and used in a lot of symbolism.

The tradition to pinch anyone not wearing green stems from Leprechaun lore – wearing green makes you invisible to the creatures, who pinch anyone they can see.

2. No drinking allowed?

While it might be hard to imagine a St Patrick’s Day without green beer and Guinness, it was actually a strictly religious holiday in Ireland during the 20th century – which means pubs were closed for business! It was made a national holiday in 1970, allowing bars to open and for the beer to flow.

3. Around 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed around the world on this one day

Although on the average day it’s still 5.5 million pints! Estimates from 2012 suggested that US $245 million is spent on beer alone on St Patrick’s Day throughout the world.

4. America began the St Patrick’s Parade traditionnew-york-city-83522_1280

The first ever St Patrick’s Day parade was in New York in 1762, and featured Irish soldiers who were serving in the English military. The event became annual and often draws in presidents to observe, including President Truman in 1948. To this day the parade is still completed on foot.

5. Chicago goes all out

New York always has the largest celebration in the US, but Chicago gets a special mention. The city dumps 40 tons of green dye into the Chicago River, and has done so ever since 1962. It only lasts around five hours, but looks very festive.

6. The President receives a shamrock

In a tradition now known as “the shamrock ceremony”, a Waterford crystal bowl is filled with clover grown in Kerry, Ireland is presented by the Irish Prime Minister to the US president. Unfortunately, it must be immediately destroyed by the Secret Service once the ceremony is complete!

7. St Patrick’s in Australia

The holiday was first celebrated here in 1820, when the Governor of South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, provided entertainment for Irish convict workers. On the 200th anniversary of this event, the Sydney Opera House was cast in green light.

8. There will be no Sydney St Patrick’s parade this year

The Sydney festival has been hit by hard times in the last few years. In 2014 a severe rainstorm hit Sydney just at the beginning of the parade and the event was called off, sending the organisers into debt of around $107,000. The parade went ahead with backing last year, attracting 80,000 visitors, but funding problems mean there will not be another this year. The organisation hopes to return the festival in 2017.

 9. Your odds of finding a four-leaf clover are around one in 10,000

ThLeprechaun_engraving_1900ese aren’t great chances!

10. Some important leprechaun facts

Don’t let ignorance hold you back – know your leprechauns! The gold that leprechauns own (in the pot at the end of the rainbow) is actually their hard-earned reward for fixing and making shoes, which explains why they’d hide it. They were also originally described as wearing red clothes, and there are no female leprechauns in folklore.

 

Traditional Irish soda bread

  • 435g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 250ml buttermilk

 

soda-bread-356625_1920Preheat your oven to 425°F/220°C/Gas Mark 7 and lightly flour a baking sheet

In a large bowl mix the flour, caraway seeds, baking soda and salt.

Add enough buttermilk to allow moist clumps to form, then gather into a ball.

Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about a minute or until the dough holds together.

Shape the dough into a round, about six inches across and two inches high.

Cut an X into the top of the bread, about an inch deep and nearly reaching the edges

Bake for around 35 minutes, until the bread is a golden brown colour and sounds hollow when it’s tapped on the bottom. Put it onto a wire rack and cool completely.

 

Alternative versions:

A version that includes raisins also requires an egg, butter and baking powder. This is likely an American-Irish version as it includes ingredients that wouldn’t have traditionally been available in Ireland.

Replace ¾ of the flour with wholemeal flour, and add rolled oats for a deliciously authentic recipe.

Or add thinly sliced baby potatoes and rosemary to slashes cut across the top of the bread.