A parade led by a giant sized St Patrick in a green robe with a large crozier and his bishop's hat. Photographers have their backs to us as they photograph him

Fact-checking St Patrick

His given name wasn’t Patrick. His colour wasn’t green. And he was never canonised. In preparation for the big day in March, a fact check of stuff I thought I knew about St Patrick has me wondering what else I was taught in school was wrong.

St Patrick was born Maewyn Succat, which would, for me, put paid to the debate whether he was born in Scotland or Wales. I can’t see anyone in Scotland naming their boy Maewyn when they could choose from such classics as Cameron or Hamish. That said, the fourth century was a long time ago and who can say anything for sure? Even his Confessio isn’t clear about this.

The bit about him being kidnapped and put to work in Ireland for six years tending sheep and pigs seems to be true. It was during this time that he found God. He had a lot of time on his hands and no place to go. Lots of time for prayer and reflection. He had a dream in which a boat back to Britain was waiting for him. He took this as gospel and snuck away one night. But back in Britain, things still weren’t settled.

He had another dream. In this one, he heard the people of Ireland calling to him to come back and teach them about God. To ready himself, he went off to France to study in a monastery. It would be 12 years before he returned to Ireland, this time as a Bishop, having taken the Latin name Patricius.

Around the world, the colour green is synonymous with St Patrick’s Day. I’ve been chastised on more than one occasion for not getting my green on. Me! And I dare to call myself Irish! But St Patrick’s colour was blue – a particular shade of blue called St Patrick’s blue.

The hue — St. Patrick’s blue, a lighter shade — can still be seen on ancient Irish flags and was used on armbands and flags by members of the Irish Citizen Army, whose 1916 Easter Rising attempted to end British rule.

The green made its appearance courtesy of the Irish independence movement in 1798. I don’t make a habit of quoting Wikipedia, yet in this instance, its article on St Patrick’s blue is replete with links to all sorts of erstwhile historians debating the issue.

As for him never having been canonised a saint! Well, that one threw me. The process, it seems, wasn’t around in his day.

In 993, St. Ulrich of Augsburg was the first saint to be formally canonized, by Pope John XV. By the 12th century, the church officially centralized the process, putting the pope himself in charge of commissions that investigated and documented potential saints’ lives.

Back in his day, miracles weren’t needed – it was enough to be a martyr or exceptionally holy.

And don’t get me started on the snakes!

With St Brigid’s Day done and dusted, thoughts of Irish everywhere turn towards 17 March, when our other national saint is celebrated around the world. I can safely offer the following as the truth. I’ve done my due diligence and verified these details with three different sources.

This year, St Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday. Back in 2011, 546 people took part in the first St Patrick’s Day parade in Budapest. Each year has seen a few more marching, with turnout figures on track to reach the 10 000 mark on the 10th anniversary. But then Covid came and made a mess of those plans. This year, the parade is back with a vengeance. It’ll start and end in Szabadság tér on Sunday, 19th March. The gathering starts at 1 pm and from the square, it’ll wend itself around the city, taking in the Parlament, the Basilica, and back to Szabadság tér for some real Irish craic. It’s a family day. Lots of fun. Invite your friends. And don’t forget to get your green on. Or your blue!


If evening dress and bow ties are more your thing, the night before, Saturday 18th March, the annual St Patrick’s Gala Dinner takes place in the Marriott Hotel. In keeping with a tradition that dates to 2006, you can enjoy the triumvirate of ceoil, caint, agus craic (music, chat, and fun) with a healthy dollop of fine food, wine, and whiskey. No doubt the Guinness tap will be functioning and you might even get an Irish coffee. Convening at 7.00 pm with entry to the Ballroom at 7:30 pm, it goes on till the early hours of Sunday morning.  Tickets are on sale now.

the back of a person's head - long red curly hair falls from a felt top hat with a green brim, an black tube (with the word GUINNESS written in white underneath a gold harp - and a white top. Green ballons float around

On the day itself, you can find parties going on in the city’s Irish pubs. Davy Byrne’s (Jokai utca 4) has music by Galway-based László Pásztor from 8 pm. They’ll also be showing racing from Cheltenham and are open from 4 pm. Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub and Restaurant (Pilvax köz 1-3) is making a weekend out of it with live must on four nights from Thursday, 16th March. JD’s Paddy’s Day party will feature free Guinness hats and t-shirts and green beer. It was back in 1914, when eye surgeon and coroner,  Dr Thomas Curtin, got the idea to colour beer in honour of St Patrick at the Schnerer Club of Morrisiania in the Bronx.  Beckett’s (Liszt Ferenc tér 11) is celebrating, too, with drinks promotions and giveaways on the day itself. The craic is there to be had.

It’s not all Budapest-centric though.

On Monday, 20th March in Győr, the Embassy of Ireland and the Library of the Diocese of Győr will launch a new documentary film, The Story of the Irish Madonna. The film tells the story of the painting of the Madonna, which was brought to Győr by the Bishop of Clonfert in the 1650s as he fled religious persecution in Ireland. The Irish Madonna, or the Weeping Madonna as she is known, is said to have cried tears of blood on St Patrick’s Day in 1697, the day after the passing of the Bishop’s Banishment Act in Ireland. The event will celebrate the close links between Ireland and Hungary and in particular between Clonfert and Győr.

On the same day, the Embassy will launch a new exhibition, which celebrates 50 years of Ireland’s membership of the EU and traces Ireland’s contribution to the birth of Europe, presenting historic manuscripts from collections across Europe that tell the story of Ireland’s early influence on the development of learning and political thought in medieval Europe. The exhibition will be open to the public.

2023 is an important year for Ireland as, in addition, we mark the centenary of joining the League of Nations, taking our place among the nations of the world as an independent country and the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to the island of Ireland. Speaking with Amb. Ronan Gargan about the significance of these anniversaries, he noted that they ‘highlight Ireland’s commitment to peace, democracy, the rule of law and human rights and the power of multilateralism and form a major part of our messaging around St Patrick’s Day’.

Whatever your reasons for celebrating, Hungary’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations won’t disappoint. To keep track of what’s going on, check the website: https://stpatricksdaybudapest.com/


First published in the Budapest Times 18 February 2023

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