What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase St. Patrick’s Day? A blur of green clovers and leprechauns most likely just flashed before your eyes. However, in Ireland, history prevails.
St. Patrick was a Christian missionary born in Roman Britain. He originally came to Ireland by way of force due to his capture by Irish pirates. Years after he regained his freedom, he returned to Ireland to continue his work. St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the death of St. Patrick and his work as a Christian missionary helping to spread the word of his god during Ireland’s fight for independence. Although he was born around 400 BC, St. Patrick’s Day only began to be celebrated during the 17th century.
In old paintings and drawings of St. Patrick, he wore a blue cassock. This led George III to officially coin the holiday’s color as sky blue and “St. Patrick’s Blue” became a popular term to use.
The color blue stems from Irish roots and Irish mythology. It symbolizes the country’s foundation and brings them back to when they gained independence as a country. So why do we associate the color green with St. Patrick’s Day?
Most know that the Irish flag is green, orange and white — changed from the previous blue. But what you might not know is that the color green signifies Ireland’s nationalism. Ireland was proud to be their own country and they wanted to stand out in a way that screamed liberty. Britain and Scotland had close variations of Ireland’s blue and, since Ireland was already known as “The Emerald Isle,” the color naturally shifted to green.
The rise of the leprechaun emerges from Irish folklore and has been used as a story to make the day a little more fun. Fairies were said to give gold to the leprechauns who then in turn hid the gold in a pot supposedly at the end of a rainbow.
Shamrocks and clovers date back to when St. Patrick himself explained Christianity. He used the parable as a way to explain the trinity (spirit, father and son).
Almost all of the traditions we know and love have come from folklore and traditional tales. Despite what we might know or might think we know about the holiday, there is a lot more history to be uncovered. To honor St. Patrick and the beginning of Ireland’s liberty, do us all a favor and wear some blue. Just because green now signifies independent Ireland, doesn’t mean we can’t honor the past life of “St. Patrick’s Blue.”