Each year on March 17, everyone in our family wears green and you can fully expect to be pinched if not. Since I was a child this has been the tradition. However, I had never given thought to what St. Patrick’s Day was really celebrating until one of my own children asked me what it was and how it began. I was both pleased and surprised at what we discovered and how it has changed the way we will celebrate this year.
Saint Patrick was a man who lived from 390-460 AD. He was a Christian Missionary who was an ordained bishop and spent most of him time in Ireland spreading the Gospel of Christ. He used the three leaf clover, or shamrock, to represent and explain the Trinity; one leaf representing the Father, one the Son, and the last the Holy Spirit. March 17 was the date of his death, and has since been chosen as the day to celebrate his life. Many churches in Ireland continue to hold services on St. Patrick’s Day.
Now that I understood who St. Patrick was and what he did, I still did not have answers for the color green and the pinching, so I continued to dig. What I found was that green was not the original color associated with St. Patrick and Ireland. Originally, it was blue. Many of the old flags and symbols are blue. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn as early as the 17th century. In the 1798 rebellion, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on March 17 to make a political statement and in hopes of catching the eye of the public. Wearing green also came from a phrase in a song which stated, “The wearing of the green,” which meant to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing. Green has since become known as the color that represents Ireland also known as “The Emerald Isle”. Legend has it that during the rebellion, people who wore green in show of their support and pride in Ireland were persecuted and sometimes killed, and that is where the pinching began.
Now that my children know what they are celebrating, they are even more excited about St. Patrick’s Day this year. Their plans include making shamrocks to hang and writing Father, Spirit and Son on the leaves. Their plans also include choosing someone to pray for, for the opportunity to share Christ with as St. Patrick did so many years ago.