Green clothes, green decorations, green beer, green doughnuts… On St. Patrick's Day, it's all about the green. Everyone knows that if you don't wear green, you'll be pinched! So why is this the case, and who is St. Patrick?
1. Who is St. Patrick and why do people celebrate?
First, let’s talk about the man who was sort-of named St. Patrick. For instance: the Catholic Church has not named him a saint, and his given name was Maewyn Succat, not Patrick. He did, however, later adopt the name Patricius.
In addition, he is recognized as the patron saint of Ireland. He baptized thousands of Irish people and helped in the founding of hundreds of churches, making him a significant influence in the propagation of Christianity in Ireland, which has been an important part of Irish society ever since. You've definitely even read that he exiled all reptiles. There were never any there to begin with, but that's still a nice story.
To understand how March 17 is the day we love, it is assumed that St. Patrick died on that day, and a Feast Day was created to celebrate his life and achievements. The feast rose in importance to the Irish people as Irish settlers celebrated it across the pond in America in the early 18th century. The first St. Patrick's Day parade was held in Boston in 1737, and the Feast Day had become a public holiday in Ireland by 1903.
2. Why do we often see the sea of green on this day?
One of the explanations for the sea of green you see every St. Patrick’s Day revolves around Saint Patrick himself. According to tradition, he described the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish using a shamrock (a herb that is, of course, green). There is little evidence to back up this claim, although several representations of Saint Patrick have him holding a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other.
Another legend dates from the early 1700s, when Irish Americans (who arranged some of the first St. Patrick's Day parades and founded several modern St. Patrick's Day traditions) spread leprechaun legends. Wearing green was said to make you invisible to the little devious animals, because if you didn't, a leprechaun would jump out and pinch you. That's a myth we'd believe if we'd had a few too many green colored drinks. However, it also helps to explain the pinching.
In comparison, the colour has a well-documented political past. It was used as a nationalistic symbol for the Irish in a number of independence revolts, and it is now one of the three colors of the Irish flag.