Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Ever wonder why we pinch each other on St. Patrick's Day if someone forgets to wear green? Oops, did you forget? The pinching tradition was started in America in the 1700s by Irish immigrants. They claimed that wearing green made them invisible and kept the leprechauns away. Leprechauns were mischievous fairies who liked to play practical jokes on people.

History shows that the original color associated with this Roman Catholic 4th century saint was really blue. St. Patrick is believed to have used the green shamrock as a teaching tool to explain the holy trinity to Irish Catholics, which may be why people started wearing green when celebrating his memory. Celebration of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland predates the 1600s and became a holiday in America in the 1700s. 

 St. Patrick (Patricius) was born to a rich landowning family in Britain near the end of the 4th century, where exactly is unknown. During a raid of his family's land by Irish pirates, he was captured at the age of fifteen and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved for six years. After hearing a voice in a dream, telling him how to escape, Patricius managed to flee his captors and return home. It was the basis of his religious conversion to Christianity. St. Patrick then returned to Ireland as a priest and missionary around 430 A.D., where he stayed for many years spreading Christianity everywhere he went. Tens of thousands were baptized and hundreds of churches were established all over Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day is still celebrated in Ireland with parades and family gatherings, and to some degree in the U.S. Parades are held in larger cities here and most of the stores stock up on corn beef and cabbage (not my favorite). Senior centers and similar places serve Irish Stew on the menu. I happened to be in Spokane yesterday attending a writers' workshop. Streets were barricaded and people (some in green costumes--mostly kids) were lining up, waiting for the big parade.

Growing up, I sort of remember someone walking through the neighborhood playing a bag pipe on this holiday. In grade school I must have cut out dozens of shamrocks with my classmates. We had fun pinching everyone who forgot to wear green, listened to our teacher read cute stories about leprechauns, and ate cookies with green frosting.  

Any other traditions out there? How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

[Source:;;'s_Day; St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, 2005, Phillip Freeman] Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl


  1. I didn't celebrate at such .. we don't have that connection to Ireland - but I lived there for 11 years ... so I liked to celebrate when living there.
    Didn't know .. all the facts - thanks for that ... all I did yesterday was posted my Irish stew recipe and put a lovely Irish folk song into the mix.

  2. Ooh...I'm going to pop on over to your blog and check that out. LOVE Irish folk. Thanks!

  3. In elementary school, green day was always fun. Working as a children's librarian, the picture books that talked about St. Patrick were all too advanced for my preschool audience, so I wore green, as did my non-speaking host puppet, and read stories that featured green instead. (Green Eggs and Ham comes to mind, but there are others.)

    Way to go with your writing output last week! What an upsurge.

  4. Oh, I can imagine the library had a ball with this holiday. Green Eggs and Ham--Ha-ha--hadn't thought about that. What fun. Thanks, Cathy, and for the encouragement too! Last week was an inspiration:)


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