Why People Wear Green On St. Patrick’s Day
When we think of St. Patrick’s Day, or Ireland, for that matter, we think of the colour green. The green of the lush landscape of Ireland, a leprechaun’s hat, or, most especially, the shamrock, which is always associated with this day. However, in the past, green was not exactly a favourite colour in Ireland, and, in some areas, was even considered unlucky. Why do people wear green on St. Patrick’s day? Read on!
The shamrock is the primary symbol of the green, but, amazingly enough, not Ireland’s national symbol, which is the harp. According to ancient history, the shamrock was important in Ireland before Christianity. It was supposedly sacred to the Druids, because the shape resembled the triad, or the mystical group of three. When St. Patrick arrived in the 5th century, he used this familiar plant and it’s importance to explain the Trinity.
The first mention of the shamrock appears in English in 1571, and in written Irish, in 1707. Using it as a badge worn on St. Patrick’s feast day, was first recorded in 1681. Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, a member of the British Royal Family presents shamrocks to the Irish Guards regiment.
The term, “the wearin’ o’ the green” began in the 19th century, and referred to anyone who wore the shamrock. It was a symbol that you were part of the rebellion, and a dangerous ornament to wear. It was considered so rebellious to wear the shamrock during the reign of Queen Victoria, that the troops were forbidden to wear it.
The Irish shamrock, which is traditionally spelled seamróg , means, summer plant. It is actually the white clover. Sometimes, an extra leaf will appear on these plants, and, the tradition grew that finding one brings good luck.
The shamrock today has been registered as a trademark by the Government of Ireland, and, is used on almost everything imaginable. It’s symbol is found on flags, stamps, coins, and even as decorative motifs on furniture.
In Chicago, the green river tradition began when a pipe fitter’s union dumped one hundred gallons of green vegetable dye into the river. Today, less dye is dumped into the Chicago river because of environmental concerns.
Without a doubt, to the millions of people who claim some form of Irish ancestry, green will always be worn on St. Patrick’s Day. Going one step further each year, St. Patrick’s Day food and drink are also sometimes dyed green to commemorate the day!