St. Patrick’s Day is everyone’s favorite holiday to wear green, drink beer, and justifiably pinch that annoying person in the office who always takes your favorite coffee mug.
But did you know that many of the traditions we associate with St. Patrick’s Day actually started in the U.S.? Or that many important technological advancements were developed by Irish inventors?
Read on for some fun facts about the Emerald Isle and the one day each year that we all lift a glass to it. Sláinte!
Fun Facts About The Emerald Isle
- Halloween actually derives from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a harvest festival at the end of summer. It was believed that the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead opened this one night of the year, so people would light bonfires and wear costumes to drive away the spirits. Eventually, when Ireland adopted Christianity, the festival merged with All Saints Day.
- Newgrange is an ancient tomb in County Meath, Ireland that dates back 5,200 years. It actually predates the Great Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge. Archaeologists believe it was an ancient temple for astrological, spiritual, religious, and ceremonial importance.
- The island of Ireland is actually divided into two countries. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, while the Republic of Ireland is an independent nation. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 officially split the two as of May 3, 1921.
- Visitors to Ireland are often surprised to find that Guinness Beer brewed there tastes differently than the Guinness brewed in their home country. This is because the water used to make the beer in Ireland has different minerals (and different quantities of minerals) than the water used in other countries and these minerals help flavor the beer. Other factors that affect the flavor are the ambiance of drinking the beer in an actual Irish pub, as well as the freshness of the beer before and after it has been stored.
- St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He grew up in Roman Britain where he was kidnapped by invaders and taken to Ireland as a slave. It was there, while working as a shepherd, that he became deeply devout. Although he escaped slavery, he eventually returned to Ireland and worked to convert the country to Christianity. Besides being credited with driving out all the snakes from the island and using the shamrock as a way to explain the Trinity, St. Patrick incorporated many elements of Irish culture into his teachings, which helped preserve some of these very old traditions.
- The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in the Spanish colony that would eventually become St. Augustine, Florida. The colony’s vicar, Ricardo Artur, was actually Irish and organized the parade there on March 17, 1601. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Boston was held in 1737, and New York City held its first parade in 1762.
- Originally, St. Patrick’s Day was a small holiday in the Catholic calendar. Families might have a nice dinner that day, but that was about it. However, Irish immigrants in the U.S. began using the day as a secular holiday to celebrate their heritage, and over time the holiday has become celebrated worldwide by people who trace their heritage back to Ireland. It has since become a major holiday in Ireland.
Groundbreaking Irish Inventions
- John Joly was a highly productive Irish inventor. Among his inventions are the meldomer, which measures the melting point of different minerals, and the calorimeter for measuring specific heats. He also created the photometer for measuring the strength of electromagnetic radiation, which eventually helped doctors use radiation as a cancer treatment. But his best-known invention is color photography using a single plate, which he developed in 1894.
- The first trans-Atlantic call was made possible by Lord Kelvin Thomson, who was knighted for his work. In 1865, he helped lay cable from Newfoundland to Valentia, County Kerry. He also developed the Kelvin Scale.
- Reverend Nicholas Callan was another esteemed Irish inventor. His best-known invention is the induction coil, which he developed in 1836. Induction coils have many applications, such as helping tune radio frequencies. While his invention is over 180 years old, it is still used in car ignitions today.
- The ejector seat was first developed in 1945 by Sir James Martin. While other ejector seats had been invented earlier, his was the first that functioned at high speeds and was suitable for pilots to actually use safely. The Royal Air Force adopted his design and within 12 months all of their planes were fitted with Martin’s invention.
- The first fully-functional submarine was invented in 1878 by John Philip Holland. An immigrant to Boston, Holland created the “Fenian Ram” in 1881 with funding from the Fenian Brotherhood. He continued refining his design, and in April 1900 the Navy finally selected his “Holland VI” as their first commissioned submarine, which they christened the USS Holland.
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