St. Patrick’s Day occurs annually on March 17, marking the traditionally recognized date of the death of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Clearly, those who are Irish will likely don the green on that day.
Where did this tradition originate, and why do non-Irish people follow it too?
First, St. Patrick wasn’t originally Irish, according to historians. It seems he was born in Britain, but kidnapped as a teenager by Irish marauders and taken to the Emerald Isle for several years. Later, as an adult, he became a Christian missionary to Ireland. St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 AD. Several centuries later, he was recognized as the country’s patron saint. Irish legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of the country. Some have said the snakes were symbolic of paganism.
St. Patrick has been remembered as using the three-leafed clover to teach of the Holy Trinity of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The four-leafed clover, considerably more rare than the three-leafed version, became known as lucky, perhaps for its scarcity. In time, the sporting of the shamrock became a St. Patrick’s Day tradition to represent Irish Christian pride.
The wearing of green apparel followed afterwards around the world, continuing the same concept.
In the United States and other locales, folks picked up the verdant fashion tradition (with green clothing celebrating both Irish lore and the eagerly anticipated coming of spring). In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day continues the wearing of green shamrocks, more than green clothing.
Irish legend carries the emerald apparel notion along, suggesting that impish leprechauns might pinch those who fail to wear the color on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s all in fun, but lot of folks pick green fashions, either to join the revelry or just in case mischief might occur with would-be leprechauns.
What if one isn’t Irish?
Is it worth shelling out lots of green for leaf-colored clothing on St. Patrick’s Day, even if one doesn’t have any Irish roots? Plenty of people take a simpler route by donning green hair bows, hats, jewelry, mittens, nail polish, neckties, socks, tee shirts, or other accents. Personal preference is paramount, and participation is always optional. But it can also be fun to sport a bit of green on St. Patrick’s Day.