History of St. Patrick’s Day

Yearly celebration takes on different meanings over time, still a holiday people enjoy celebrating


Senior Chloe Givens participates in the school’s St. Patrick’s Day spirit day March 16. Photo by Averi Creef

and Brenna Muir

Ouch, someone just pinched me! Each year on March 17, the color green dominates. Although many know to wear green to avoid being pinched, not all know why green is so prominent on this one specific day out of the year.

March 17 marks the day that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, passed away. In his honor, this day is now known as St. Patrick’s day. Originally, the day was celebrated with a religious feast, but it is now celebrated with different festivals all over the world. Many of these celebrations include the color green, parades, music and even some special foods.   

Although today the color associated with this holiday is green, historians say that the original color was a light shade of blue. The hue can still be seen on ancient Irish flags and armbands used by the Irish Citizen Army. The color green became prominent during the 1798 rebellion. At this time, the clover became a symbol of nationalism and green lapels became commonplace. The green quickly spread to uniforms. Combined with Ireland’s lush green fields and the country’s nickname of the Emerald Isle, blue became a color of the past.

The tradition of pinching people not wearing green originated in the United States. It is said that people wore green to be invisible to leprechauns, who sought out people not in the color to pinch.

Leprechauns are mythical shoemakers who hid their money in pots at the end of rainbows, and they are recognized symbols of Ireland. Traditionally, leprechauns wore red. There are many theories on why they switched to green. Some say it’s so they could blend in with the grass while others say they began wearing green because the color became dominant in Ireland. Leprechauns are known to be cantankerous and solitary as well as mischievous. The elusive creatures are known for their greed, and the spotting of a leprechaun is considered good luck.

“I do not pinch people because it is a waste of my time,” gym teacher Darana Ruhle said.

The shamrock is another traditional symbol of the day. It was chosen because legend has it that St. Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate his belief in the Trinity. The Trinity was the idea that God was three in one: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In Dare County, one of the biggest traditions for this holiday is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year will be the 29th St. Patrick’s Day parade here. According to the parade’s Facebook page, the parade annually includes over 100 entrants and is watched by over 8,000 people. This makes it the biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the state.

“I go to the parade with my friends and family because it’s a family tradition and I enjoy seeing everyone come together and celebrate,” freshman Neveah Rayburn said.

Parades aren’t just popular here. The first recorded parade for St. Patrick’s Day was in New York in 1762. At this time, the people in the parade were homesick Irish soldiers fighting for the British army.

Although corned beef and cabbage is not the traditional meal in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, it is in the United States. Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century.

“On St. Patrick’s I eat corned beef and cabbage while wearing the color green,” game art and design teacher Connor Butler said. “In the past, I have been to a couple St. Patrick’s Day festivals.”

According to the United State Census Bureau, 10.2 percent of the population, or 32.7 million people, claimed Irish ancestry in 2015. This number is more than seven times the population of Ireland, and it makes Irish the nation’s second most reported European ancestry. With strong ties to Ireland, it is no wonder Americans enjoy celebrating each March 17.

“I have a lot of Irish heritage,” Butler said, “and I think that any day is a good day to celebrate our roots!”