Wearing green to hide from leprechauns

Published 4:47 pm Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The color green doesn’t really mean much to me until this time of year. On that one day in March, it’s the only thing standing between my arm and the all-too-familiar sting of being pinched.

Getting pinched for the lack of green is actually an entirely American tradition that probably started in the early 1700s, according to the Christian Science Monitor. 

Wearing green is supposed to make one invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch anyone they could see on St. Patrick’s Day.

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While some traditions and myths celebrated on the holiday are light-hearted, St. Patrick’s Day does have a serious and interesting history.

The holiday is celebrated on March 17 — believed to be the day of Saint Patrick’s death in the fifth century.

For over 1,000 years, the day has been observed by the Irish as a religious holiday, according to History.com.

Though the holiday occurs during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally waive the prohibitions against eating meat, and people would dance, drink and dine on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

Though Saint Patrick is known to be the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, he was born in Roman Britain. He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16, according to History.com. He escaped, only to return to Ireland, bringing Christianity with him.

Though the religious holiday was originally observed in Ireland, the first parade was hosted in New York City.

Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched to their own music down the streets of New York City to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as other Irishmen serving in the English army.

Over the years, these parades grew in popularity and politicians. 

The ever-growing American Irish population eventually organized their voting block known as the “green machine,” which became a must-have for up-and-coming political leaders. These annual St. Patrick’s Day parades took a turn for politics and became a show of strength for Irish Americans.

Parades are not the only traditions celebrated on the holiday.

The Chicago River has been dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day since 1962. 

One of the most well-known legends about the saint is when he explained the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — using the three leaves of a shamrock, which according to an article from the Smithsonian Magazine, doesn’t actually exist.

The small three-leaved plant has baffled botanists for centuries.

The “shamrock” is technically a mythical plant rather than a scientific species. In some points in history, it was believed to be a good luck charm that will ward off evil spirits. 

Smithsonian Magazine compares the shamrock in the plant world to being much like a drawn cartoon heart compared to the actual anatomical hearts beating inside the human chest.

Shamrocks appeared in plays and poetry in the 1500s. They were seen in the common meadow clover by English herbalist John Gerard.

Since then, botanists have been trying to match the idea of the shamrock with a particular species, so far to no avail, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.

While it is not the most predominant tradition, drinking is known to occur on St. Patrick’s Day.

Whether you’re just sporting green to avoid getting pinched by your friends and co-workers, or out taking the holiday by the horns and covering yourself in green mystical shamrocks and enjoying a pint of Guinness while blaring Irish tunes at a parade, remember to celebrate the holiday responsibly.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!