St. Patrick’s Day Is A-Comin’


Chicago River St Patrick's DayWhen you think of St. Patrick’s Day, you think of Ireland, green, three leaf clovers, and leprechauns. But St. Patrick’s Day was not always that way. Here is a compilation of little-known facts about St. Patty’s Day, how it is celebrated in different cities across America, and how you can use MyHeritage to find your Irish roots.

St. Patty’s Day Blue?

While we all associate St. Patrick’s Day with green, the original color of the day was blue because statues and paintings of St. Patrick always depicted him wearing blue. This tradition ended 139 years after the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration. While nobody knows for sure why green became the color of the day, it might have been due to the phrase, “wearing of the green,” which referred to wearing a green shamrock as a symbol of Irish pride.

Only in America…

Many Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with gusto. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any Irish ancestors – anyone can wear green, build leprechaun traps, and have fun. Here are some of the more interesting facts about the day that you can only find in America:

Boston holds the title for the longest-running St. Patrick’s Day tradition, where the first public celebration was held in 1737.

In 1780, during the Revolutionary War, George Washington gave his troops a holiday on March 17, “as an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence.”

New York City has the largest parade with 150,000 marchers and millions of spectators every year.

Chicago has died the Chicago River green since 1961. They got the idea from sewer workers who would dye the river green to look for sewer discharges. Indianapolis dyes its main canal green, and Savannah, GA, dyes all its water fountains green.

Many cities paint the yellow dividing lines on the streets green.

New London... or is it New Dublin?New London, Wisconsin, changes its name to New Dublin for the week of St. Patrick’s Day.

Since St. Patrick is the patron saint of engineers, the Missouri University of Science and Technology crowns a St. Patrick’s Day court and uses mops to paint 12 city blocks completely green.

In Savannah, Georgia, it is traditional for women to kiss men who are in the military on St. Patrick’s Day.

19 American cities have St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that have been running for more than 100 years. 5 of those have been running more than 200 years: Boston; New York City; Philadelphia; Morristown, New Jersey; and New Orleans.

In 1978, the Cincinnati Reds became the first sports team to wear St. Patrick’s Day hats. They were followed by the Boston Red Sox 22 years later. The first St. Patty’s Day jerseys were worn in the 1980s by the Philadelphia Phillies. Nowadays, almost every sports team has special St. Patrick’s Day uniforms or merchandise.

There are many more ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Tell us how you celebrate in your town. Add a comment below.

Irish Pride

Many Americans claim Irish ancestry. Here are some of the most famous Americans whose ancestors called the Emerald Isle home:

Walt Disney Walt Disney, founder of The Walt Disney Company, was also the creator of Mickey Mouse and his ancestor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Born in London, Alfred Hitchcock moved to America and brought us classic horror movie like Psycho and Vertigo.

Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, invented the Model T car and pioneered the assembly line.

F Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was of Irish descent.

At least 24 US presidents claim Irish ancestors, including Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and John F. Kennedy.

For 66 of the last 100 years, the President of the United States has claimed Irish ancestry, including all of the last six presidents: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Of course, Obama and both Bushes are related to each other.

In the 19th century, presidents of Irish ancestry held the White House for 48 years. In the 18th century, only George Washington claimed Irish ancestry.

Jefferson Davis, the first and only President of the Confederacy, was of Irish descent.

More Americans claim Irish ancestry than any other ethnic group except German.

According to the 2000 census, Americans who claim Irish ancestry reside in every state in the Union.

Lucky shamrocks

Luck of the Irish

MyHeritage has 7 million American members and 330,000 Irish members – you never know, some of you might be cousins! You can use our Community pages and Family Tree Builder to find Smart Matches and discover new parts of your family tree. St. Patrick’s Day is the best time to focus on your Irish roots – you never know, you just might get lucky!

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  • Ronan L

    March 11, 2009

    Great little summary, I never knew about Walt Disney!

    Astronaut Neil Armstrong was also claimed by us Irish for a while, but we eventually had to concede he’s got Scottish roots, rather than Irish ones!

    Irish-Americans might be interested in tracking the spread of the Irish-born since 1880 here:


  • Chris T.

    March 12, 2009

    That’s a really interesting post.

    Thanks for highlighting all those little known facts – I must admit I was unaware of most of them.
    So good job! I really enjoyed it.

  • MyHeritage Blog

    March 17, 2009

    Happy St Patrick’s!

    Whether you are Irish, have Irish ancestry, need an excuse to drink Guinness, or paint your river green, MyHeritage wishes you a happy Paddy’s day! We wrote previously about the little know facts about this day. It turns out there…

  • New Dublin

    March 20, 2009

    It is New London, WISCONSIN that changes it’s name to ‘New Dublin’ for a week of Irish Festivities around St. Patrick’s Day.

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