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The Origins of the Tradition of Wearing Green on St. Patrick's Day

Updated on July 31, 2016
Map of the entire island of Ireland. The counties are indicated by thin black lines, the traditional Province of Ulster by bright green, and the modern territory of Northern Ireland indicated by a heavy black border across the island that separates.
Map of the entire island of Ireland. The counties are indicated by thin black lines, the traditional Province of Ulster by bright green, and the modern territory of Northern Ireland indicated by a heavy black border across the island that separates. | Source

Grandma Jennie

My Irish grandma Jennie was a Jenkins. Her family hailed from the Irish province of Ulster and settled in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Her real name was Melissa Jane Jenkins, but people called her Jennie, short for Jenkins I guess. Jennie Jenkins was a voracious reader, and aspiring writer. If Hubpages had been in existence during her lifetime I'm certain she would have written thousands of hubs as she was a gardener, cook, seamstress, antique collector, and story-teller. So when I saw a Hub question about the tradition of wearing green on St. Paddy's Day I decided to take it on.

There's a bit of controvery in this hub about the origins of wearing green on St. Patrick's Day, as Jennie was a Protestant. You see, in Ireland, Protestant's don't wear green, they wear orange...as in King William the Orange.

To distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholics, the Irish Protestants were called "Scotch-Irish" in America. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch-Irish_American


The Irish Flag contains green to represent the Catholics, white to represent peace, and orange to represent Protestants
The Irish Flag contains green to represent the Catholics, white to represent peace, and orange to represent Protestants | Source

The Irish Flag

The Irish flag is a tri-color design made up of green, white and orange. Green represents the Catholics, orange the Protestants, and white the peace between them. Right.

So, basically, wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is an American tradition.

In Ireland, you get pinched if you wear orange on St. Patrick's Day.

In America, you get pinched for not wearing green, period.

But I digress...

St. Patrick

What do we know about St. Patrick? There are many fables about him, such as driving the snakes out of Ireland, which doesn't have any snakes.

St. Patrick was actually born into a wealthy British family in the 4th Century. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland and held captive as a slave until he had a dream from God urging him to flee and return to Britain, which he did, and became a priest.

He eventually returned to Ireland on a mission that lasted 30 years, and converted the Celtic Druids there to Christianity.

He died on March 17 in AD 461 in County Down.

Beginning in the 1700s, St. Patrick's Day, a Roman Catholic Feast Day, was celebrated in America by the Irish immigrants with parades, which it is surmised were used to bring attention to, and in protest of, their low social status.

Today, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into a secular celebration which now covers several continents.


The Wear'n o' the Green

Despite the fact that Ireland is known as the "Emerald Isle", it has little to do with it.

Here's the deal: St. Patrick integrated the green three-leafed shamrock in his sermons to explain the Trinity to the Druids, thus easing Christianity into their culture, which included wearing green during the spring equinox.

Before the 1798 Rebellion you wore a shamrock in your hat to signify your support, also known as "the wearing o' the green".

In Conclusion

Despite the fact that my Grandma Jennie was an Irish Protestant, I still celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing green, serving corned beef and cabbage with soda bread, and drinking lots of beer, and I do so out of the love I have for that magical place, Ireland, and all things Irish.

Top o' the morn'n to ya!

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    • itakins profile image

      itakins 5 years ago from Irl

      Funny -some minor inaccuracies ,but good read.We eat ham ,not corned beef:)

    • Lilleyth profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      I know. American Irish imigrants started using corned beef which they learned from their Jewish neighbors. Plus I love corned beef and cabbage, and potatoes, throw a few carrots in there...I'm hungry.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Interesting hub. Many English towns and cities have large Irish communities, but not in our corner. So this is new info - thanks.

    • profile image

      josefusan 5 years ago

      Good article, although Jenkins isn't an Irish name. It's originally from Cornwall, and common in Wales.

    • Lilleyth profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      The Irish Jenkins were originally part of the Protestant dissenter families transplanted to Ulster from Wales.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      Hello Lilleyth,

      I have visited the USA a few times but never on St.Pat's day. I must put it on the list.

      The Southern Irish flag explanation was very interesting.

      I don't think many southern Irish would go along with it though lol :)

    • Lilleyth profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      I appreciate your comments molometer. Thank you.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      This hub has some very interesting points. I find it fascinating that the clover was to represent the trinity, but we always seek out four leaf clovers now.

      Great article, voted up and shared!

    • Lilleyth profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      Why thank you Robert! Lol.

    • Lilleyth profile image
      Author

      Suzanne Sheffield 5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      Not that anyone would be interested in reading this hub in April...

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