There are several different stories about why we wear shamrocks on St Patrick’s Day.
Irish folklore says St Patrick used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to Irish pagans. The wearing of shamrocks goes back as far back at the 17th century. At the time, the Irish Catholic religion was forced underground due to British rule. Strict laws prevented Catholics from attending school.
The Catholics formed ‘hedge schools’ in secret to continue their education – which took place in actual bushes! The teachers used shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to pupils. To show their defiance of British rule, the Irish Catholics started wearing shamrocks.
Another version of the story involves the Boer War and Queen Victoria. The war wasn’t as easy as Queen Victoria had anticipated. The military struggled to overcome their enemies and causalities mounted.
Irish volunteers made up many of the British regiments. To keep Irish support strong in the military, Queen Victoria formed a new unit called the Irish Guards, who were allowed them to wear a sprig of shamrock on St Patrick’s Day.
Why Wear Green
For those of you who aren’t aware, Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle, largely because of how green the countryside is – which is what makes it such a perfect spot for hiking.
Blue was the original colour associated with St Patrick. During the 1790’s, the colour green became entwined with Irish nationalism. So as a rebellion to British rule, the Irish began wearing green, picking up steam throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Not only do people wear green today, but buildings and bodies of water in various cities around the world ‘Go Green’ for St Patrick’s Day. In 2015, 150 of the world’s most famous landmarks went green. Some recent famous sites include:
- Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado hill in Rio de Janeiro
- Edinburgh Castle
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Niagara Falls
- The fountain at the White House
- Sydney Opera House.
So, are you going green?
Every year on St Patrick’s Day, there are parades all over the world. Believe it or not, the first ever St Patrick’s Day parade was not held in Ireland. In fact, it was in New York in 1762. The first parade wasn’t held in Ireland until 1903! In 1762, it was Irish soldiers in the British Army who held the first parade. Many Irish immigrated to America in the 19th century and the celebration became widespread.