What do you know about the history of St. Patrick's Day?

By: J. Reinoehl
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

St. Patrick's Day is a day celebrated by the Irish and those who love all things Irish. How much do you know about this celebration and its history? Find out by taking the quiz below.

On which date is St. Patrick's Day traditionally celebrated?

St. Patrick's Day is based on the Feast of St. Patrick. It has always been celebrated March 17.

What nationality was the real St. Patrick?

St. Patrick was born in 390 A. D. in Great Britain. His family was aristocratic and Christian.

Which of the following is not a traditional St. Patrick's Day food?

Couscous is not traditionally served on St. Patrick's Day. It originated in Northern Africa and is usually served topped with stew.

What color has been worn on St. Patrick's Day for more than 200 years?

Green is the traditional color of St. Patrick's Day. The Irish flag is green, white, and orange because green represents Catholics and Irish republicanism. The orange is for Protestants (for William of Orange and Britain), and white represents peace between the two.

How did St. Patrick first get to Ireland?

St. Patrick was 16 when he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland for the first time. After drawing closer to Christianity, he heard voices that told him to escape.

Chicago is known to dye what on St. Patrick's Day?

A portion of the Chicago River has been dyed green every year since 1962. Mayor Richard J. Daley began the tradition when he noted the dye used to detect plumbing leaks was an ideal shade of green.

What song begins: "Oh, Paddy, dear, and did you hear the news that's going 'round? The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground…"

The Wearing o' the Green tells about the suppression of Irish nationalism in the 1790s. The best-known version of the song was written by Dion Boucicault in 1864.

What notably Irish drink is frequently dyed green in celebration of the holiday?

Green beer was first served in New York in 1914 at a St. Patrick's Day dinner. A physician added laundry bluing to the beer to color it, but today, food coloring is the safest alternative.

Which Canadian hockey team was once known as the St. Patricks?

The Toronto Arenas became the Toronto St. Patricks December 7th, 1919, to appeal to the Irish population. In 1927, the team was again resold and became the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What other color was associated with the Most Illustrious Order of the Knights of St. Patrick?

In 1782, when the Order of St. Patrick was founded by George III, blue became the color of the order. Although still in existence, the last surviving Knight who was a member of the order died in 1974.

What plant did St. Patrick use to explain the Trinity?

The shamrock is in the clover family and has three leaves that St. Patrick reportedly used to describe the Holy Trinity. The plant is frequently depicted in most images of the saint.

In which year was St. Patrick's Day first declared a feast day by the Catholic church?

The Catholic Church first established the Feast of St. Patrick on March 17, 1631. He had been revered as the patron saint of Ireland since around the 7th century.

What is one way many cities celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Many cities throw a parade in honor of St. Patrick's Day. In addition to green outfits, one frequent attraction in these parades is the bagpipe band. Uillean (or elbow) bagpipes are native to Ireland.

What is the punishment for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day?

Getting pinched for not wearing green has long been a custom, but its origins are uncertain. Some say you pinch them to steal their luck while others say you pinch them because leprechauns can see them when they don't wear green and will pinch them, too (alternately leprechauns will pinch them because green is their favorite color).

In Ireland, which annual animal show is done on St. Patrick's Day?

In 1922, the Irish Kennel Club was founded by dog owners who felt different breeds should be included than those offered by the English Kennel Club. It is a tradition to hold the show on St. Patrick's Day.

What animal was St. Patrick rumored to have driven out of Ireland?

Saint Patrick was rumored to drive all the snakes out of Ireland. Because no snakes live in Ireland today, it lends credence to the tale. Researchers believe there never were snakes in Ireland because of its cold climate and the colder waters surrounding it, but Great Britain does have native snakes and is similarly situated.

From the early 1900s until the 1960s what was closed in Ireland on St. Patrick's Day, but is now open on the holiday?

Taverns were closed to prevent revelry in Ireland during the first half of the 20th century. Banks and the post office have always remained closed since it became a national holiday.

Where do Leprechauns hide their gold?

Light refracted through raindrops forms the rainbow we see. The original saying was that you were as likely to find a pot of gold as you were the end of a rainbow.

In which city was the first recorded St. Patrick's Day parade?

The first St. Patrick's Day Parade was held in New York City on March 17, 1762. New York has consistently had a large Irish population.

Which of the following is not an instrument used by the Irish for centuries?

The Didgeridoo is a traditional instrument of the Australian Aborigine. All the other instruments could be used by any traditional Celtic band, such as the Chieftains or the Clancy Brothers, on St. Patrick's Day.

In which Irish city is St. Patrick's tomb?

No one has determined whether the tomb of St. Patrick in Downpatrick contains St. Patrick's body, but it is the traditional burial place and a gravestone bearing his name is located there.

In addition to Ireland, of what other country is St. Patrick the patron saint?

Ireland sent missionaries to Nigeria in the early 1800s and has maintained close ties with the country ever since. The Irish embassy in Nigeria was the first embassy the Irish government opened anywhere on the African continent.

What restaurant offers Shamrock Shakes in honor of the holiday?

McDonald's Shamrock Shake was first launched in 1970 and is available throughout March. In 1974, the shakes were responsible for the founding of the Ronald McDonald House charities when a football player had a daughter with leukemia and the Eagles' general manager contacted McDonald's. McDonald's used the proceeds from a week's worth of shake sales to create a comfortable place for families to stay when their children were in the hospital.

Although corned beef has been a traditional St. Patrick's Day food since the 1900s, what Irish meat did it replace at that time?

Irish bacon is taken from the back of the pig instead of the belly (the place American bacon comes from). Similar to Canadian bacon, it has a layer of fat around it.

Badges worn on St. Patrick's Day before the 1900's generally contained which two symbols?

St. Patrick's Day badges were worn until the late 1800s, and many children make them today as a St. Patrick's Day craft.

March 17 was thought to have what significance for St. Patrick?

March 17 is the day that St. Patrick reportedly died. After dying, his body was transported to the place of his final burial.

What was the name of the first church St. Patrick established?

St. Patrick was housed in a barn by the local chieftain, Dichu. That became the place where he was able to establish his first church. "Saul" is the anglicized form of Sabhall, which is the Irish word for "barn."

What famous stout Irish beer is consumed on St. Patrick's Day in more than double the normal quantity?

On an average day, people consume 5.5 million pints of Guinness worldwide. On St. Patrick's Day, that amount reaches around 13 million pints.

Patrick's birth name?

Many sources place Maewyn Succat's birth around 387 A.D. He took the name Patricius (Patrick) at his ordination.

Before dye, what was traditionally added to alcoholic drinks on St. Patrick's Day?

Prior to dying food green, celebrants would add shamrocks to their drinks to show their love of all things green. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other holiday dedicated to one nation.

How long did St. Patrick remain enslaved before escaping?

He became more interested in Christianity after he was forced to tend sheep in Ireland for six years during his enslavement. He escaped, returned home, and was ordained in Britain

Most of what we know about St. Patrick's life was recorded in what autobiographical work?

The Catholic Church preserved two works written by St. Patrick that were translated into English: The Confession of St. Patrick (Confessio) and The Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus (Epistola). There are other writings of St. Patrick that were written in Irish and later translated into Latin. There are also many writings attributed to St. Patrick but were written after he died.

How many leaves does a "lucky" clover have?

The four-leaf clover is considered lucky, but it is the three-leaf shamrock and not the four-leaf variant that truly represents St. Patrick and his holiday. Still, the four-leaf variant can be seen as part of St. Patrick's Day décor even though it is a global good luck symbol that doesn't have much to do with the saint.

The first descriptions of leprechauns had them wearing what color?

Early leprechauns appeared in literature clothed in red. They were cranky, fairy cobblers, who sometimes granted three wishes to those who managed to catch them, but more frequently tricked those who encountered them.

What unusual thing was reported to have happened to St. Patrick's walking stick?

St. Patrick's walking stick supposedly took root and became an ash tree because it took so long for him to evangelize Aspatria. Traditional Irish walking sticks are called Shillelagh and have a weighted knob on the top so they can double as a weapon.

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