This Saturday is St. Patrick's Day; a day for parades, shamrocks and lots of green. Americans are expected to spend $4.5 million on decorations, clothing items and drink celebrating this year. But as popular as St. Patty's Day is, there are still a few misconceptions surrounding the saint. Here are five facts you may have thought you knew about St. Patrick and the story behind them.
St. Patrick is an Irish saint
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and credited for bring Christianity to the nation, but he wasn't Irish. He wasn't even named Patrick. He was born Maewyn Succat in 4th century Britain. It is believed that he chose the name Patrick after he became bishop.
At the age of 16, Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and sent into slavery in Ireland. He worked as a shepard for six years before escaping. During his difficult captivity, Patrick turned to his faith for comfort, and when he returned to Britain, he entered the Church and became an ordained minister. Following an inspiring vision of a man and a letter with the words "The Voice of the Irish," he returned to Ireland as a missionary.
Patrick died on March 17, 461, and in the early 17th century, the Church declared March 17 his official feast day.
St. Patty's Day equals green
The color green has little to do with St. Patrick. In fact, the color associated with the saint is actually a dark shade of blue named "St. Patrick's blue," which can be seen on ancient Irish flags and in the coat of arms of Ireland.
The association with green most likely comes from the lush green landscape of the "Emerald Isle."
Three-leafed clovers aren't that great (compared to the lucky four-leafed clovers)
Considered the most recognized icon of Ireland, the shamrock has been an important symbol to the Irish long before the arrival of St. Patrick. And while the four-leafed shamrock is considered good luck, the common three-leafed one was considered a sacred symbol to the Celtic Druids of Ireland.
Celtic religion placed high value on the number three, and according to legend, St. Patrick used the plant to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity when he brought Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century. He compared the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit of God to the three leaves of the shamrock united by a single stalk.
St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland
The legend behind St. Patrick includes the tale that the missionary did away with all the snakes in Ireland. And while the island doesn't have any snakes, according to experts, it never did. Ireland is surrounded by cold, rocky waters, which would have prevented snakes from coming over from Britain.
Scholars believe the snakes, a common symbol for evil in literature, represent the pagan religions and beliefs of Ireland. When St. Patrick brought Christianity to the people, he drove away the "evil" pagan rituals of the past.
Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish, St. Patty's Day meal
Corned beef and cabbage isn't an authentic Irish meal, but rather a tradition started by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century.
In Ireland, the traditional meal associated with St. Patrick's Day is bacon and cabbage (Irish bacon is similar to Canadian bacon or ham). However, Irish immigrants in the United States had to replace the pork with corned beef because of its lower cost. Cabbage, a relatively cheap vegetable for families to purchase, retained its spot in the traditional meal.