Brilliance or Blarney: The St. Patrick's Day Traditions Quiz

By: Staff
Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

St. Patrick's Day can be one of the most fun holidays of the year — and one of the most misunderstood. Who was St. Patrick? Why are people pinching me? Whose idea was it to dye entire rivers green? Find out these answers and more as you kiss the Blarney Stone and learn (or confirm) the truth about St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 because it’s the day that:

This holiday is celebrated on the day that St. Patrick died back in 460 A.D. And for the record, he did a bang-up job running the snakes out of Ireland. The island is entirely snake free.

For what purpose was St. Patrick’s Day was originally created?

Though the day has evolved into a raucous, alcohol-fueled event in many places, it was originally the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick. In Ireland, this religious holiday was honored with the closing of businesses and pubs so that Irish Catholics could attend church and pray. After church, they did take a break from their Lenten practices and kick up their heels, but it wasn’t the wild party it can be today.

What’s with the shamrock? What does it symbolize?

The shamrock is a natural symbol for St. Patrick’s day because this three-leaved plant was frequently used by St. Patrick to explain how the holy trinity worked. The leaves represented the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The shamrock was a convenient teaching tool when the Saint was sharing his spiritual knowledge out in the green fields of Ireland.

Where did the first St. Patrick’s Day parade take place?

New York City likes its parades. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred there in 1762, and it was actually a military parade. Irish soldiers who served in the English military marched through town on March 17 to honor their Irish roots. The tradition has continued into the 21st century, and New York City’s parade is now the oldest civilian parade (and the largest parade period) in the country.

What is the Hibernian Society?

The Hibernian Society is one of several Irish aid groups that formed in the early 1800s to provide charitable assistance to Irish immigrants. Hibernian orders popped up in many U.S. cities with large Irish Catholic populations, and they often host the local St. Patrick’s Day parade. If you’re lucky, you can find one in your own hometown.

How do people currently celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland?

In the past, St. Patrick’s Day was mainly a religious celebration, and business establishments closed for the holiday. In the mid 1990s, the Irish decided to get on board with America’s tradition of St. Patrick’s Day blowouts and began to open their pubs to tourists celebrating abroad. Now Dublin hosts its own four-day St. Patrick’s Day Festival, chock full of parades and Irish music, dance, food and art.

What is the name of the group in Japan that offers assistance to Irish immigrants?

Japan has a very active group of Irish supporters who make up Irish Network Japan. They celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, much like the Irish and Americans, with parades, silly outfits and even dogs dressed in green.

What will kissing the Blarney Stone bring you?

The Blarney Stone can be found on the top floor of the Blarney Castle in Ireland. Legend has it that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll receive the gift of eloquence. Which means you can talk your way out of anything. Which might come in handy if your Americanized St. Patrick’s Day party should get out of hand.

Which of these meals is often eaten in America on St. Patrick’s Day?

Corned beef and cabbage is a modern St. Patrick’s Day staple. Cabbage is a very common side dish in Ireland, but the addition of corned beef was a New World tradition. Irish immigrants in New York City started substituting corned beef for Irish bacon. Their Jewish neighbors introduced them to this new meat as an affordable alternative.

Why do you get pinched if you aren’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day?

Pinching someone who isn't wearing green is an entirely American tradition. The story goes that if you're wearing green, you become invisible to leprechauns and fairies. But if you're caught without your colors, these troublesome little creatures will sneak up and give you a pinch. (We still think it’s a good way to meet new people.)

What was the first official color of St. Patrick’s Day?

Historians say that blue was the original color that represented the holiday, back when it was simply a religious feast day for St. Patrick. Somewhere along the way it changed to green. This could be for a number of reasons -- to represent the shamrock, to pay homage to the green color on the Irish flag or to remind immigrants of their lush green land.

What number more than doubles on St. Patrick’s Day?

Guinness Stout was first brewed in a family-owned Irish brewery in 1759 and is now sold in more than 150 countries around the world. On average, Guinness sells 5.5 million pints a day worldwide, but on St. Patrick’s day that number more than doubles to 13 million pints.

Which American St. Patrick’s Day tradition began as an accident?

Several cities dye their rivers green for the big day, but Chicago first discovered this decoration by accident. In 1962, the parade organizer was talking with a plumber and noticed he had green dye on his coveralls. The dye was being used to detect leaks that were allowing pollution to flow into the river. But the parade organizer detected a new opportunity and decided to dye the Chicago River green for that year’s celebration.

Name the famous President of the United States with an Irish family background who forgot St. Patrick’s Day.

President Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic president in the U.S., and rumor has it that on the day he was to meet Ireland’s contemporary ambassador to the U.S., Thomas Kiernan, he completely forgot that it was St. Patrick’s Day. Fortunately, a clever staffer realized this and rushed a green necktie to the President so he could avoid a leprechaun’s pinch.

Where was St. Patrick born?

This may come as a surprise, but St. Patrick was actually born in Britain. He was kidnapped and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. He eventually returned to Britain, but legend has it that a heavenly voice urged him to go back to Ireland and convert them to Christianity.

Which musical instrument is the most highly treasured in Ireland?

Harps are an important St. Patrick’s Day symbol and have been popular in Ireland for centuries. Harpists, who were often blind, played a big role in Irish social structure and were supported by kings and chieftains. The harp is such a prominent Irish symbol that you’ll find it on coins, state seals, the coat of arms and the presidential flag -- as well as the Guinness Stout label.

What’s an Irish Car Bomb?

Most Americans use the phrase to describe an alcoholic beverage that may be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day (or any day they feel like honoring their Irish brethren by chugging alcohol). It’s a mixture of Guinness stout, Irish cream and Irish whiskey that must be downed quickly, before the Irish cream curdles. But don't order one in Ireland -- the drink is named for a string of deadly terrorist acts that occurred during the Protestant/Catholic Troubles of the 1970s, which are, understandably, still upsetting to the Irish.

Which common St. Patrick’s Day symbol has little to do with the holiday?

Celtic crosses and snakes are linked to the religious aspects of St. Patrick’s Day, but leprechauns really have no place at the party. They are simply a symbol that Americans have adopted to remind them of Irish fables. (And it’s way more fun to dress up as a leprechaun than a saint.)

Which Irish saying means “excuse me”?

If you can pronounce it, then “gabh mo leithsceal” is useful for squeezing through a crowded bar -- or apologizing for a friend's culturally ignorant behavior.

Which city in the Southeastern U.S. is home to the second largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country?

Though New York City has the largest parade, Savannah comes in second and attracts over 300,000 visitors to their festive waterfront city each year. The first parade was hosted by the local Hibernian Society in 1813, and the tradition is going strong with revelers celebrating all day and into the night.

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