WTF Fun Fact 13278 – St. Patrick’s Day Blue

Ready to don your St. Patrick’s Day blue and head out to the Irish pub crawl on March 17th?

If you’re like most people, you probably associate St. Patrick’s Day with the color green. After all, the iconic shamrock and leprechaun hats are all decked out in various shades of this vibrant hue. But did you know blue was just as much associated with St. Patrick as green?

St. Patrick’s Day blue

The truth is, the origins of St. Patrick’s Day are steeped in history and tradition, dating back to the early days of Christianity in Ireland.

Legend has it that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, used the three leaves of the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity to the Irish people. The color green, then, became a symbol of both St. Patrick’s teachings and the lush, rolling hills of the Irish countryside.

But what about blue?

Blue was actually the original color of St. Patrick – or at least the Order of St. Patrick. This chivalric order was established in 1783 to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Members of the order wore blue uniforms as they marched in parades on St. Patrick’s Day.

But even before that, blue was a prominent color in Irish mythology and folklore. The ancient Celts associated blue with the mystical realm inhabited by supernatural beings. Blue was also associated with water, which was seen as a source of life and renewal.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below):

“When Henry VIII assumed the throne, after more than 300 years of English rule over Ireland, he took steps to strengthen his hold on the isle, declaring himself King of Ireland in 1541, making it a part of the England and giving it its own coat of arms. This was the first official instance of connecting the color blue with Ireland, using a golden harp on a blue background; the same symbol can be seen today on the Constitution of Ireland and the Presidential flag.”

The use of green as the color of St. Patrick’s Day can be traced in part back to the 19th century. Irish revolutionaries wore green as a symbol of their cause.

Blue bows to green

Over time, the popularity of the green shamrock rose as a symbol of Ireland. And St. Patrick’s Day overshadowed the blue of the Order of St. Patrick. The rest, as they say, is history.

So next time you head out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, remember the history and traditions that shaped the holiday. You might even consider raising a glass while wearing blue this year!

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Source: “Should We Be Wearing Blue on St. Patrick’s Day?” — Smithsonian Magazine


WTF Fun Fact 13277 – St. Patrick’s Day Drinks

St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday and there were no “St. Patrick’s Day drinks.” In fact, for many years in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was considered a solemn occasion. All pubs were closed for the day.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Irish government began promoting St. Patrick’s Day. They did it as a way to boost tourism, and the celebration became more secular and associated with drinking alcohol.

The solemn holy-day

St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with excessive drinking. In fact, it’s become such a tradition that many people overlook the holiday’s true origins and meaning.

The origins of St. Patrick’s Day can actually be traced back hundreds of years. It was first celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of the patron saint of Ireland. So much for the drunken Irish stereotype.

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century.

Originally, the day was observed with prayer and church services. The writings of St. Patrick tell us that he was born in Britain but captured by pirates at age 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave. He believed his enslavement was due to his lack of faith as a child.

Later, after escaping slavery and returning home to be reunited with his family, he returned to Ireland to spread the word of God and repent for these sins. In Ireland, March 17 marks the death of the country’s beloved patron saint.

St. Patrick’s day became a day for drinking

Up until the 1970s, Irish law prohibited pubs from opening on March 17. This was meant as a mark of respect for this religious day. But this date also takes place during Lent, and authorities thought it might lead some to temptation to have the pubs open on a celebratory day.

But as the years went by, the religious significance of the day began to take a back seat. Celebrations became more “festive,” shall we say. And, to be fair, in the 18th century, the Irish were already using the day to celebrate the pride in their heritage.

Now, the wearing of green, the drinking of Guinness, the insisting that you’re Irish – those all have their roots in Irish-American culture, rather than the religious origins of the holiday in Ireland. But some of the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parades took place in Ireland to celebrate its culture.

Taking back Saint Paddy’s Day?

Of course, there are plenty of places that still recognize St. Patrick’s Day as an official religious holiday rather than the prelude to a nasty hangover.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to reclaim the religious significance of St. Patrick’s Day, and to focus more on its origins as a day of reflection and spiritual renewal. This focus on the religious aspect of the holiday is seen as particularly important in a world where many of us are disconnected from our spiritual roots.

As for whether you have a St. Patrick’s Day drinks this year – well, that’s up to you!

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Source: “All the pubs in Ireland used to be closed on St. Patrick’s Day” — Irish Central


WTF Fun Fact 13036 – The Original Potato Jack-o-lantern

We wouldn’t dream of carving anything other than a pumpkin on Halloween. But the carving tradition actually originated in Ireland with the potato jack-o-lantern.

Stingy Jack and the origins of the potato jack-o-lantern

The history of jack-lanterns on Halloween originates with an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack from centuries ago.

According to (cited below):

“According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.”

Jack sounds pretty savvy, but the story gets even more convoluted.

Jack of the Lantern

When Jack died, the folktale says that God refused to let him into heaven because of his sneaky deeds. The Devil didn’t want him either. So, “[h]e sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since.”

That’s really not a story we could have guessed.

Nevertheless, Jack’s glowing figure was eventually referred to by the Irish as “Jack of the Lantern” and later simplified to “Jack O’Lantern.”

The spooky tradition of carving one’s own Jack-o-lantern started in Ireland and Scotland, where potatoes and turnips were plentiful. (Pumpkins are native to South America, so there were no pumpkins in Europe before colonization.)

Even creepier is England’s use of beets (which would look bloody and bright!).

The tradition came to America with immigrants, who realized the pumpkins made an even better vessel for Jack’s face.  WTF fun facts

Source: “How Jack O’Lanterns Originated in Irish Myth” —


WTF Fun Fact 12946 – The Stone of Destiny

Even if you’re a “royal watcher” and love the idea of real-life kings, queens, and princesses, you can still feel a little “icky” about the idea that royals often feel like they were chosen by the universe in some way to wield power and influence over others. Perhaps that’s why the so-called “Stone of Destiny” is making headlines before the coronation of King Charles III.

What is the Stone of Destiny?

Also called the Stone of Scone, this slab of red sandstone has been used in the UK since the 9th century when it was used to coronate Scottish kings. King Edward I stole it in 1296 after invading Scotland, and it was built into a throne in Westminster.

The Stony of Destiny long sat at Westminster Abbey and is still today what kings and queens of England sit upon during their coronations (with a cushion, of course, because royalty doesn’t want to be uncomfortable).

Stealing the stone

The stone was briefly stolen on Christmas Day in 1950 by students and a teacher making a statement about Scotland’s independence, but (while it was broken in the process) it was returned 4 weeks later. And the people who stole it were not charged – instead, a movie was made about the effort, aptly titled Stone of Destiny.

Soon, it will play a role in King Charles III’s rapidly-approaching coronation.

In 1996, the stone was returned to Scotland, but it will make the journey to England for the King’s coronation.

What’s so special about the stone?

The stone has some conflicting stories associated with it. The most common legend is that it was used by Jacob as a pillow in the Book of Genesis. It’s the pillow he laid his head upon when he had the dream of Jacob’s ladder.

That means it would have been mined in Palestine and the story goes that it made its way through Egypt, Spain, and to Ireland, courtesy of the prophet Jeremiah before the next part of the legend begins.

Later, the stone was brought from Ireland to Argyll, Scotland by Fergus the Great, the legendary first king of Scotland. (More accurately, he was the King of Dál Riada, a territory that spanned modern-day Scotland and Ireland.)

During the Viking raids on Scotland in the 9th century, the stone was moved to the Abbey at Scone (which is why it’s often called the Stone of Scone). It was moved there by Kenneth MacAlpin, which sounds like a modern name but is actually the name of a 9th-century king who began to consolidate the lands (and peoples, such as the Picts) into a separate country called Scotland.

Its biblical origins are unlikely, however, since geologists have proven that it’s “lower Old Red Sandstone” from a quarry very close to Scone. However, some insist the real Stone of Destiny still resides in Scotland because what was stolen by King Edward I and then repatriated had always been a replica of the original.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The “Stone Of Destiny” Is Returning To Westminster For The Coronation Of King Charles” — IFL Science