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The Traditional Color of St. Patrick’s Day

March 5, 2019
By Anesa McGregor , Emmetsburg News

This is the second editorial that I am looking at traditions of St. Patrick's Day. Last week I learned that St. Patrick wasn't even Irish and that there have never been snakes in Ireland. The stories of St. Patrick have always fascinated me so I thought I would look at the traditional color of St. Pat's Day.

I have thought that green was the traditional color of the Irish holiday and whether it is true or not, if you didn't wear green you risked getting pinched.

True or not, I always tried to wear something green. After all, nobody wants to be pinched.

Doing some research into traditional St. Pat's Day, I have discovered that green has not always been the color of the day.

What if everyone wore blue on March 17 instead of green? Would the holiday still be the same? the earliest depictions of St. Patrick show him clothed in blue garments, not green, and that when George III created a new order of chivalry for the Kingdom of Ireland, the Order of St. Patrick, its official color was a sky blue, known as "St. Patrick's Blue."

According to the Smithsonian website, when Henry VIII assumed the throne, after more than 300 years of English rule over Ireland, he took steps to strengthen his hold on the isle, declaring himself King of Ireland in 1541, making it a part of the England and giving it its own coat of arms. This was the first official instance of connecting blue with Ireland, using a golden harp on a blue background; the same symbol can be seen today on the Constitution of Ireland and the Presidential flag.

But because of the Tudor King's interference, and its continuance on through the 18th century with George III's creation of the Order of St. Patrick, blue as a color associated with Ireland became tainted. From the late 18th to the 20th century, as the divide between the Irish population and the British crown deepened, green and St. Patrick's shamrock became a symbol of identity and rebellion for the Irish.

The Order quickly disintegrated after the establishment of the Irish Free State. Technically, the Order is still in existence today but without any remaining Knights. Its only two remaining members are the head, Queen Elizabeth II, and one officer, the Ulster King of Arms. The seats of the Order are now filled by members of Ireland's St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, still wearing robes of St. Patrick's blue.

There you have it. Sky Blue was the traditional color of St. Patrick's Day, yet because the Irish were looking for a symbol of their identity and as a way of rebellion against the British crown, green has become the official color. However, if you see someone wearing blue on St. Patrick's Day, remember it was the original color of the holiday.



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