Posted: Mar 07, 2014 6:00 AM
Did you ever wonder why you get pinched for not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day — or even why we celebrate this holiday at all? Get the scoop here with our St. Patrick's Day fun facts.

When most people think of St. Patrick's Day, they think of lucky shamrocks, Irish parades with green beer and wearing head-to-toe green to avoid being pinched. These traditions are fun, but why we do this and who is this curious St. Patrick?

Have fun impressing your kids and the playgroup moms with these St. Patrick's Day fun facts!

Who was Saint Patrick?

Saint Patrick is known for spreading Christianity to the Irish people in the fourth century — however, he was actually born in Britain! He was kidnapped by Irish raiders when he was only 16; however, Irish folklore says he was told by God in a dream to escape and take a ship back to Britain. According to Wikipedia, he then became a priest, and later said he was "called back to Ireland" to "Christianize the Irish."

Why do we celebrate on March 17?

We celebrate St. Patrick's Day on March 17 because he died on March 17 in the year 461.

What is the deal with the shamrock?

The shamrock is associated with this holiday because Irish folklore says that Saint Patrick used a shamrock, with its three leaves, while teaching the pagan Irish about the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Why do we pinch?

We all know that you have to wear green on St. Patrick's Day — or you will get pinched! How did this silly tradition start? It actually started in America in the early 1700s, when folklore says that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, who love pinching! If you don't have on green, people will pinch you to remind you to wear green before you get pinched by a leprechaun!

Why do we wear green?

Did you know the color first associated with Saint Patrick's Day was blue? Around the 17th century, the color green evolved as the color of the holiday for several reasons. In addition to the shamrock being green, the color is also featured in Ireland's flag and Ireland is known as the "Emerald Isle" for its gorgeous green landscape.

What's the difference between a shamrock and four leaf clover?

A shamrock isn't considered lucky, but a four leaf clover is! Wondering what is the big difference? A shamrock only has three leaves and, as mentioned earlier, was used by Saint Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity. A four leaf clover is a mutation of the shamrock, occurring only once in 10,000 plants, which is why it is considered so lucky. If you find a four leaf clover, perhaps you should also pick up a lottery ticket!

More St. Patrick's Day fun facts

  • St. Patrick's Day is not considered a legal holiday in the U.S. — which unfortunately means no free day from work or school!
  • Chicago dyes the Chicago River green (using a secret recipe!) in honor of St. Patrick's Day — and they have done this for more than 40 years!
  • New York City had its first official St. Patrick's Day parade on March 17, 1762.
  • There are actually more Irish here in the U.S. than in Ireland! There are around 4.2 million people living in Ireland – and around 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry.
  • Drinking green beer is one of the hallmarks of St. Patrick's Day; however, prior to 1970, all the pubs were actually closed on this day as it was considered more of a religious holiday.
  • Saint Patrick's birth name was actually Maewyn — not Patrick!
  • Some people float a shamrock on the top of their whiskey before drinking it, a tradition called "Drowning the Shamrock." It is supposed to help you have a prosperous year.
  • Impress your family with this traditional Irish toast:

"May your glass be ever full... May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."

  • Is that toast a little too dark? How about this sweet one?

"May you always have...
Walls for the winds, A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire, Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire."

More St. Patrick's Day fun

St. Patrick's Day cocktails: Get your Irish on!
Inexpensive St. Patrick's Day crafts
St. Patrick's Day cupcakes

Photo credit: Jeffrey Coolidge/Photodisc/Getty Images