Ready to don your St. Patrick’s Day blue and head out to the Irish pub crawl on March 17th?
If you’re like most people, you probably associate St. Patrick’s Day with the color green. After all, the iconic shamrock and leprechaun hats are all decked out in various shades of this vibrant hue. But did you know blue was just as much associated with St. Patrick as green?
St. Patrick’s Day blue
The truth is, the origins of St. Patrick’s Day are steeped in history and tradition, dating back to the early days of Christianity in Ireland.
Legend has it that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, used the three leaves of the shamrock to teach the Holy Trinity to the Irish people. The color green, then, became a symbol of both St. Patrick’s teachings and the lush, rolling hills of the Irish countryside.
But what about blue?
Blue was actually the original color of St. Patrick – or at least the Order of St. Patrick. This chivalric order was established in 1783 to honor the patron saint of Ireland. Members of the order wore blue uniforms as they marched in parades on St. Patrick’s Day.
But even before that, blue was a prominent color in Irish mythology and folklore. The ancient Celts associated blue with the mystical realm inhabited by supernatural beings. Blue was also associated with water, which was seen as a source of life and renewal.
According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below):
“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 the color 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.”
The use of green as the color of St. Patrick’s Day can be traced in part back to the 19th century. Irish revolutionaries wore green as a symbol of their cause.
Blue bows to green
Over time, the popularity of the green shamrock rose as a symbol of Ireland. And St. Patrick’s Day overshadowed the blue of the Order of St. Patrick. The rest, as they say, is history.
So next time you head out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, remember the history and traditions that shaped the holiday. You might even consider raising a glass while wearing blue this year!
Source: “Should We Be Wearing Blue on St. Patrick’s Day?” — Smithsonian Magazine