St. Patrick’s Day is enjoyed in more countries around the globe than any other national holiday. British Commonwealth nations and those with Irish populations tend to celebrate the most, but anyone who wants to party can use this holiday as an excuse to have a good time. Undoubtedly, New York City holds top honors for throwing the largest celebration; however, since 1962 Chicago has been dumping tons of green dye in the Chicago River each year in honor of St. Patrick and the Irish. St Patrick’s Day is an official holiday in both Ireland and in Montserrat, the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” a location that was settled by Irish immigrants in 1633.
St. Patrick was born to wealthy British parents in the late 300s. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and transported to Ireland. For the next six years, he was forced to tend sheep in solitude. At this time he turned to Christianity, and soon thereafter, he began a 200-mile journey to the coast of Ireland. He eventually escaped back to Britain. After completing his religious training, he would return to Ireland to tend the Christians living there and evangelize the pagan Irish. He died around A.D. 460.
In reality, the authentic color for St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is blue. It can still be seen today on Ireland’s Presidential Standard and other ancient Irish flags. In the 1700s, green replaced blue and became the official color for Ireland. It is one of the three colors of the modern Irish flag. Green seems like a more logical choice when you consider that Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle because of its beautiful green countryside. The expression “the wearing of the Green” refers to both the shamrock that St. Patrick used to teach the Trinity and the bright green uniforms worn by soldiers during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Green has also been the color that represents support for the Irish dream of independence.
The green of the Irish flag is the official color for St. Patrick’s Day. It is a spring green with less blue in it than some of the other shades. Pantone’s green PMS 347 is the closest match. However, there are several other greens that are also associated with the Irish culture. Shamrock green is the color of clover. Emerald green is a lighter, bluish-green version. Kelly green is bright and has more yellow tones.
Green is the largest of the color families and has the most varieties that are discernible to the human eye. While in America this color often symbolizes growth, hope, optimism, nature and health, in other parts of the world it can have a negative connotation. In China, it symbolizes infidelity. Even in the United States, green can be associated with sickness, envy and slime. Shades of green that have more yellow tend to create the most negative responses.
Although St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally an Irish holiday, anyone is welcome to join the celebrations. As the Irish like to say, “There are really only two kinds of people in the world: the Irish and those who would like to be Irish.”