I must confess to not being a big follower or celebrant of St. Patrick’s Day, mostly because I forget about it until someone reminds me that I’m not wearing green. (When you work at home, as I do, that seldom becomes an issue.)
At the same time, as one whose mother’s grandparents came to America from Ireland to escape the potato famine, I suppose I should at least acknowledge the holiday. And as a writer, I need to do so with some basic research under my belt.
St. Patrick’s Day is, as the name denotes, a day to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick. The date is set on what is commemorated as the day of his death. The day became an official feast day in the seventeenth century, and it is formally celebrated by several denominations: the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and
Anglican Communion. The day is meant not only to honor Ireland’s patron saint but also the arrival of Christianity to Ireland. With that in mind, I decided I should become more proactive in celebrating this holiday. I started researching the roots and meaning of this day, and quickly discovered it was more than getting pinched on the playground because you forgot to wear green.
Here’s a fascinating point: The color originally associated with St. Patrick’s Day was blue, but that changed over the years. Before long celebrants began wearing a green shamrock to honor the day and to signify good luck—or “the luck of the Irish.” It is believed that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity to the pagans, who otherwise struggled with its concept. As a matter of fact, I remember a Lutheran pastor using that very example to explain it when I was a child, and I admit that it greatly simplified the concept, even to my young mind. In what is known as the “1798 Rebellion,” Irish soldiers dressed completely in green on March 17; from that point on, the phrase “the wearing of the green” began to spread until most everyone was familiar with it.
March 17 became an official holiday in Ireland in 1903, and I imagine the Irish are celebrating it there with gusto today, though I wonder how many—in Ireland and elsewhere—observe the true roots of St. Patrick’s Day. Not only is it more than a day to wear green to avoid being pinched or to down a bunch of beer at a local pub, it is a day to honor a man who used something as simple as a shamrock to explain the mystery of the Trinity to unbelievers. Maybe today, as we observe this century-old holiday, we too can find a way to use “the wearin’ of the green” to introduce others to the Christ that St. Patrick followed.