Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!
Ok, now that I’ve got that out of my system, lets talk about the true history that surrounds some of our very popular traditions on Saint Patrick’s Day! For those of you in countries were it isn’t celebrated, St Patrick’s day is March 17th, when everyone wears green, drinks beer, and lies about having Irish heritage. But why?
Saint Patrick, himself
First things first: Saint Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was British! In fact, his name wasn’t even Patrick. His name was Maewyn Succat and he was born in the late 4th century. He was actually captured and enslaved by Irish raiders, and forced into years of hard labor. When he finally escaped, he returned to England, converted to Catholicism, and changed his name to Patricius, or “Patrick” as we say today. He then decided to return to Ireland, where he spent 30 years as a missionary! (WOW! I thought my 2 years as a missionary was a long time!)
There is a rumor about Saint Patrick that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland, but that is probably untrue, because according to National Geographic, there were never any snakes in Ireland to begin with! When he died on March 17 in the year 461, he became the patron saint of Ireland! Now, March 17th is always Saint Patrick’s day.
Four-leaf clovers are lucky!
This superstition has many, many origins, and four-leaf clovers have come to be a prominent symbol not only of Ireland, but also of Saint Patrick himself! (it’s almost impossible to find an image of him not holding one!) One of them goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, where it is said that when they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, Eve brought a four-leaf clover with her. The leaves on a traditional three-leaf clover are said to symbolize the Holy Trinity, and when a fourth leaf is added it symbolizes God’s grace. Another story says that the three leaves represent Faith, Hope, and Love, and that when a fourth leave is found it represents Luck!
A more traditional origin story tells us that the early Celts of Wales used clovers as charms to ward off evil spirits, so obviously if you could find one, it was a good day for you and your family!
Better wear GREEN!
Anyone who has been to elementary school knows that if you don’t wear green on Saint Patrick’s day, you will be pinched mercilessly. Although no one knows for sure how this tradition started, I’m pretty sure the reason it’s stuck around so long is because it’s the only day young kids are actually allowed to pinch people, and there would be riots on the playgrounds if we took it away.
One version of the origin says that wearing green is symbolic of Ireland (green is a predominant color of the Irish flag, and Ireland is well known for the Emerald Isle), and wearing green is to honor Irish heritage and culture. Those who don’t wear green are pinched for not showing support.
Perhaps a more fun version of the story says that leprechauns (who aren’t the cute little guys on greeting cards and t-shirts, but mischievous little creatures who love inflicting pain) can’t see green. If you wear green, they can’t see you, and if they can’t see you, they can’t come up and pinch or otherwise hurt you. So the pinching is a reminder to put some green on before a leprechaun comes around and does it!