Traditionally March 17th, otherwise known as Saint Patrick’s Day, is a celebration of drinking and debauchery where people dress up in fine St Patrick’s Day Costumes and celebrate to the wee hours of the night…or early morning if they can make it that long. Yet as early as the 9th and 10th centuries the holiday was more focused on prayer, and religious reflection. It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries when Irish immigrants began flooding the ports into the United States that it became Party Time!!! Originally it was also a day when everyone wore blue, instead of green, in salute to the Order of St. Patrick.
The Order of St. Patrick
It was created in 1783 by King George III at the request of then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the 3rd Earl Temple. Also known as the National Order of Ireland, it was put in place to reward high officers of Ireland and their Irish peers.
Officials were knighted then given national privilege in their then Bristish controlled society. Recipients of this honor included 146 Knights between the years 1783 and 1936. Mostly this tradition expired after 1922 when Ireland finally gained her independence. As a free state, they were unshackled from the restraints of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Apparently, to a certain extent, this order still exists. No official knight has been appointed since 1936. It’s now a figurative tradition with figure heads replacing what were once referred to as genuine “Knights of Honor.”
The Hue Blue As The Original Irish Color
Originally blue was the color of choice in Irish tradition, although now it’s considered the old school vision of the Republic’s eventual independence. In Irish mythology Flaitheas Eireann, the sovereignty of the Isle, was always seen in drawings as a woman dressed in blue.
In 1541, King Henry VIII was determined to solidify his complete control over the then undeclared Isle of Ireland. To do so, he had a new coat of arms created. It was of a golden harp set against a bright blue back round. In the aftermath of this executive decision, “St. Patrick’s blue” became more pronounced with the emergence of The Order of St. Patrick.
Knights of the Order were ordained in blue flair galore. They were given a pristine cobalt hat and a badge enamored in teal enamel.
The color was, and is to some, considered the “light” of Dublin Ireland. The GAA county of Dublin’s uniforms are blue jerseys, and the National University of Ireland’s academic dress code has continued to be a “St. Patrick’s Blue”.
A traditional Irish bride will still wear blue because in that culture the color is considered a symbol of virginity. This is in contrast to our Westernized vision of a woman in white.
St. Patrick’s Day as a Religious Holiday
St. Paddy’s Day was initially a celebration of God, more so than a time to consume liquor. Earlier than that though prayer was at the forefront of the holiday. It was a time to reflect upon oneself in a more spiritual sense.
The flag of Ireland is a true representation of its eventual religious unity. “The tricolour” symbol, also known as “the Irish tricolour” is a collective vision of green, white, and orange. It was created in 1919 after the country had officially become independent of England. Its design was a gift to Ireland by a body of liberal women in France who were staunch supporters of Irish liberation.
The Green, White, and Orange of the Irish Flag
The flag was first flown publicly during the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. Although it was swiftly taken down by British soldiers only eight days later. It was to become the official incarnation of a newly established country’s definitive symbol of segregation from England, but more importantly a unity amongst Irish people themselves. It was a complete coming together of religious back rounds.
The white, central of the symbol, signifies a truce between the one-time opposing green and orange sides. Green being the Catholic rebels. Orange for the protestant minority.
The rebels apparently prevailed as history will have it. The original flag was first flown with the orange section closest to the flagpole. Today’s version has the green side replacing this coveted spot.
Green as the Grass on the Emerald Isle
Ireland’s tagline is “The Emerald Isle“, and the green stripe in their flag played a significant role in their history’s hue’s transformation from blue to a leafy viridescent. Irish Catholicism eventually overtook the two feuding religious groups. And Irish nationalism became overwhelmingly locked in green.
Originally a symbol of paganism, the shamrock became a visual explanation of Christianity’s Holy Trinity. The number 3 had turned into not only an Irish national phenomenon but a cross-cultural faux pas as well. It was during this inception that the significance of wearing green and adorning yourself with shamrocks was seen as a rebellious act against the British.
Until the early 1900’s being Catholic was considered being in subordinate. Those who practiced the religion were nonconformists. Wayward outsiders. Over time, the habit became not only a symbol of Catholic nuns but for the Irish community’s religious majority in general.
Green will forever be a reminder of Catholic revolt and certain shame in a world surrounding St. Patrick’s Day. Yet it has also become one of the truest, most recognized depictions of a holiday hell bent on a particular color. Drinking games included!
A Movie That Defined Ireland’s Nationalism
The Irish have constantly searched for their place in the sun. Director Neil Jordan explored a similar perspective phenomenally in his 1992 Oscar winning movie The Crying Game. The story follows a group of Irish Republican Army agents who kidnap a young black British soldier. They threaten his execution unless one of their own terrorists is released from English incarceration.
The Irish characters depicted in The Crying Game are hardcore Catholics. Beyond that, their IRA roots paint them in a harsh but, some would say, sympathetic light to the plight of the ordinary Irish man or woman.
The central protagonist is a hapless loner determined to right the wrongs he’s done as an assassin and a murderer for the country he seemingly loves. He is a hero and an antihero simultaneously. In order to avoid terroristic persecution, he staunchly pretends to be Scottish. In an English world. This central character, Fergus, certainly has a deep, somewhat distorted connection to his true Irish descendance.
Leprechauns For St Patrick’s Day?
True believers in Saint Patrick’s Day traditions believe in things and beings peculiar and hilarious. Leprechauns in particular. They get very worked up if you don’t wear their favorite tone, green! They’ll pinch you for an infraction such as this on their most treasured day of the year.
Warwick David said it best in the B-movie hit Leprechaun (1993), also starring Jennifer Aniston in her first film performance, “Where’s me pot of gold?!” Don’t [email protected]#$ with their stash! And as this movie so hysterically portrays, DON’T expose them to a green four-leaf clover. Unless of course you want to be rid of their nuisance.
Another Leprechaun tradition was always fun for me personally as a kid. If you didn’t wear green, a little green guy would come into your room when you weren’t there and turn all of your furniture upside down. It would still happen to me, even if I had worn it! HIs name was apparently Lepi. My dad must have been really bored.