Wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is a tradition. No questions asked, just do it, kinda thing. So, as I'm running away to ask this, in my green shirt (it says "WORLD'S TALLEST LEPRECHAUN), I came to wonder why we do it. Why do we wear green on St. Patrick's Day and get pinched if we don't?
I can remember several years ago, a friend of mine got pinched on St. Patrick's Day in Wagner, Oklahoma of all places.
So why do we wear green on St. Patrick's Day and get pinched if we do not?
To be honest the answer has to do several items:
- St. Patrick
- The Color Green
- The Irish Potato Famine
Why do people wear green on St. Patrick's Day?
As to how that became the day we love/fear, March 17 is the day on which St. Patrick is thought to have died, and a Feast Day was instituted to commemorate his life and accomplishments. As Irish immigrants celebrated it across the pond in America in the early 18th Century, the feast became a bigger and bigger deal to the Irish community. This led to the first-ever St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston in 1737, and by 1903 the Feast Day was a National Holiday back in Ireland.
The link between green and Irish pride originated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. As the Irish rebelled against the British soldiers, who wore red, they wore green uniforms. There's a famous ballad about this called "The Wearing of the Green," which is guaranteed to make you feel somber and proud even though you have no connection to those events. As a sign of solidarity with the rebellion, people began wearing green as an expression of Irish pride. Since St. Patrick's Day was the official day to express that pride, the two became linked. - The Questions You're Too Afraid to Ask About St. Patrick's Day Answered
How does the Irish Potato Famine fit in to this in America?
The Irish Famine caused the first mass migration of Irish people to the United States. The effects of the Irish Potato Famine continued to spur on Irish immigration well into the 20th century after the devastating fungus that destroyed Ireland's prized potato crops died out in 1850.
Starvation and diseased claimed around a million lives during 1845-1850, which lead to almost twice that number to emigrate to other countries, including a majority into the United States. The lack of industry and overall poverty that remained constant in the region brought many impoverished Catholic farmers and laborers into the U.S. - Irish Immigrants to the United States
So we can see that the Irish during the 1800s came to the United States in large numbers and brought their Irish heritage with them.
Now for the color green. There are several points to be made here.
Green is a liturgical color to Irish Catholics that symbolizes hope. Hope in a new country and a new way of life in the US.
Green, not purple was the original Episcopal color and St. Patrick was a Catholic Bishop.
And again there is The Wearing of the Green.
"The Wearing of the Green" is an Irish street ballad lamenting the repression of supporters of the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It is to an old Irish air, and many versions of the lyric exist, the best-known being by Dion Boucicault.1 The song proclaims that "they are hanging men and women for the wearing of the green".
The revolutionary Society of United Irishmen adopted green as its colour, and supporters wore green-coloured garments, ribbons, or cockades. In some versions, the "green" being worn is shamrock rather than fabric. - The Wearing of the Green
Let us not forget the legend of St. Patrick and the shamrock. The shamrock is green too.
Traditionally, shamrock is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity when Christianizing Ireland in the 5th century. The first evidence of a link between St Patrick and the shamrock appears in 1675 on the St Patrick's Coppers or Halpennies. These appear to show a figure of St Patrick preaching to a crowd while holding a shamrock, presumably to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, which could have aided St Patrick in his evangelization efforts. Patricia Monaghan states that "There is no evidence that the clover or wood sorrel (both of which are called shamrocks) were sacred to the Celts". However, Jack Santino speculates that "The shamrock was probably associated with the earth and assumed by the druids to be symbolic of the regenerative powers of nature ... Nevertheless, the shamrock, whatever its history as a folk symbol, today has its meaning in a Christian context. Pictures of Saint Patrick depict him driving the snakes out of Ireland with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other."
And finally the Leprechauns:
And this is why the pinching on St. Patrick's Day happens.
The pinching on St. Patrick's Day is connected to another of the holiday’s staples: the leprechaun. Superstitions claimed that wearing the color green made you “invisible” to these magical creatures, who went around violating people’s personal space and pinching everyone they could see. The reason behind this inconsiderate behavior? They’re just mischievous.
But this quickly devolved into people taking matters into their own hands, quite literally, and pinching those around them on St. Patrick’s Day who weren’t wearing green — as a reminder that leprechauns might pinch them. So there’s really no escaping the pinch. - Here's the real deal with the pinching on St. Patrick's Day