​Is the shamrock a myth? The truth behind 5 St. Patrick’s Day symbols

From rivers dyed green to steaming plates of corned beef and cabbage, each of the symbols we associate with St. Paddy’s Day has an origin story worth reading.

Shamrocks, green beer, and leprechauns are part and parcel of any self-respecting St. Patrick’s Day celebration. But how did the traditions we associate with the March 17 holiday become associated with the feast day of a fifth-century missionary? More often than not, the story is one of cultural appropriation sprinkled with a bit of American ingenuity.

Here’s the truth behind five St. Paddy’s Day symbols.

Do you think of a diminutive green sprite with a pot of gold when you think of Ireland? You’re not alone—the leprechaun is one of the most enduring symbols associated with the nation.

But the modern idea of a leprechaun is a far cry from its origins in Irish folklore

DON'T MISS THE REST OF THIS STORY!
Create a free account to continue and get unlimited access to hundreds of Nat Geo articles, plus newsletters.

Create your free account to continue reading

No credit card required. Unlimited access to free content.
Or get a Premium Subscription to access the best of Nat Geo - just $19
SUBSCRIBE

Read This Next

'World’s worst shipwreck' was bloodier than we thought
World’s first ultrasounds of wild manta rays reveal a troubling truth
Titanic was found during secret Cold War Navy mission

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet