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St. Patrick’s Day myths


By Tara Yilmaz

→ Did you know there is no direct association between St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and leprechauns? states that the Patron Saint of Ireland lived during the fifth century. Although he’s recognized for being Irish, he was born in Britain and was raised in a Romanized family. At the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped from his father Calpurnius’ villa by Irish raiders. He was brought to Ireland as a slave and lived there for six years in captivity. During his time in bondage, his trade of force was being a herdsman. With nothing but his dreams of escaping and his Catholic faith, he depended on both to keep him alive until he was reunited with his family.

Years later around the age of 20, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain and entered into the priesthood. He was ordained a bishop and was sent to Ireland to spread the gospel.

→ Did you know there are legends about St. Patrick? Legend told, Patrick drove snakes out of Ireland into the sea after the reptiles attacked him during a 40-day fast that he undertook on top of a hill. (This is patently untrue because there were no snakes in Ireland during that time period due to geographical and environmental reasons as per the Washington Post article, “Did St. Patrick get rid of the snakes in Ireland,” by Patrick Bittel.) It is also rumored that the Apostle to Ireland raised 33 men from the dead, and provided a herd of swine to starving sailors in a desolate land. The most popular legend is that of the shamrock. According to, Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. He explained the three-leaved plant with one stalk symbolized three persons in one God. Because of this, the shamrock became the national flower of Ireland, and traditionally, Irishmen wear the shamrock on their lapels.

→ Did you know Ireland is steeped in rich stories that sometimes intertwine with real historical figures and places? The Gaelic folklore of the banshees tells of a female spirit whose appearance or wailing warns a people they will soon lose a family member. The Celtic myths of Fionn mac Cumhaill or better known as Finn McCool are about the Irish warrior who was also a giant. McCool was said to have built the scenic Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland’s most famous landmark. Even with mystical giants and wailing spirits, leprechauns get top billing on the list of legends.

→ Did you know in Irish folklore leprechauns are fairies? The word leprechaun derives from the old Irish language luchorpan meaning “little body.” Often portrayed as a grumpy fairy that prefers only the company of himself, the leprechaun lives in remote places and enjoys making shoes. Legend goes, you can hear a leprechaun before seeing him by the sound of his hammer whacking away. Despite popular portrayals in Irish culture, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because the trickster leprechaun keeps it hidden from prying eyes. But if the leprechaun is captured, he might tempt his captor by revealing the crock of gold’s hiding place. Only if the captor can keep his eyes fixed on the tiny shoemaker could the captor wish to win. This never happens because a diversion would miraculously appear and cause the captor to look away and allow the leprechaun to vanish.

→ Did you know there’s one connection found between St. Patrick’s Day and leprechauns? The Better Homes and Gardens article “This Is Why Leprechauns Are Associated with St. Patrick’s Day,” by Emily VanSchmus reveals the connector of the two was none other than Walt Disney. In 1959, Disney released the film Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The movie was about an old Irish man and his adventures with leprechauns. Even though St. Patrick’s Day parades have been occurring in America since 1762, in the later 1900s parades became popularized.

By St. Patrick and leprechauns being so heavily associated with Irish culture, leprechauns became the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and St. Patrick is celebrated among people of Irish heritage and people with no Irish heritage. So, this year on March 17, 2023, wear your best Irish attire, pour some Guinness and may your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow. And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.



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