Although there are only 34.7 million people of Irish descent living in the United States, more than 125 million Americans are estimated to be participating in St. Patrick's Day festivities Thursday, according to the National Retail Federation. The average spending per person is expected to be about $35.37, with total St. Paddy's spending reaching $4.4 billion.
"Retailers expect to see a nice boost in sales as consumers head to stores looking for apparel, decorations, food and beverages to help make their St. Patrick's Day celebrations special," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. "With the winter holidays behind us and spring flowers starting to bloom, St. Patrick's Day provides a perfect opportunity for Americans to get together to celebrate with friends and family."
Here are some facts about the actual history of St. Patrick and the March 17 holiday.
1. St. Patrick was sold into slavery by pirates as a child.
St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents at the end of the 4th century, according to Discovery. Maewyn Succat, which may or may not have been St. Patrick's real name, was kidnapped by Irish pirates at the age of 15, according to Biography, and then sold into slavery in Ireland, where he spent six years. When he escaped, he wrote a letter of an "angel" compelling him to become a missionary in Ireland, according to History.com. Succat underwent 15 years of religious training after this vision, becoming St. Patrick.
2. Every year, the president gets a gift to commemorate the holiday.
Every year since 1952, the president of the United States receives a crystal bowl full of shamrocks from the Irish ambassador. Harry Truman, the president who was supposed to receive the first bowl of shamrocks, was not home to accept the gift, according to CNN. However, the gift has a short shelf life: White House security regulations require the bowl to be destroyed.
3. We should actually be wearing blue, not green.
Traditionally, green is thought of the color most associated with St. Patrick's Day. However, the use of green to celebrate the holiday is a "newer" idea. It is believed that the color green was adopted in the 18th century, according to History.com. "The Irish countryside may be many shades of green, but knights in the Order of St. Patrick wore a color known as St. Patrick's blue," the website states.
4. St. Patrick may not have banished all the snakes from Ireland.
One of the most persistent myths surrounding St. Patrick is that he drove all of the snakes from Ireland into the sea, which is why no snakes exist on the island to this day. Researchers say that the Ice Age kept the Emerald Isle too cold for reptiles to thrive, keeping snakes away. After the Ice Age ended, the neighboring seas may have kept snakes away permanently.
"At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland. [There was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish," Nigel Monaghan, keeper of natural history at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, told National Geographic.
5. Arkansas is home to the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade.
The world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade takes place in Hot Springs, Arkansas. According to the official website of the celebration, the parade is only 98 feet and lasts a little over an hour. Actor Gary Busey and the musical duo of Kevin and Michael Bacon will be attending the parade on Thursday. The first official St. Patrick's Day parade took place in colonial New York City, in 1762.