Once again, it is that time of year — St. Patrick’s Day! I love the Irish! I love their food and music, their accent and their general awesome attitude and friendliness. However, I am not Irish myself, and as such feel no connection to the shove-down-your-throat approach to St. Patrick’s Day in the USA.

In the USA, “wearing of green” is a tradition on St. Patrick’s Day, whether you are of Irish descent or not. In fact, you do not even have to like the Irish to wear green in the USA. If you are caught not wearing green, tradition states that you should be punished by being pinched.

“Aha! You are not wearing green! I get to pinch you now!”
“I am sorry, but … WHAT?”

Yeah — ridiculous!

Now, despite my love for the Irish (and the fact that I have several good Irish friends), on St. Patrick’s Day, you will find me not wearing green … on purpose. There are several reasons for this, none of which include me being an arrogant, no-fun, anti-Irish advocate.

First of all — as I already stated above — I am not Irish. I would not expect non-Swedes to dress up accordingly for June 6th (which happens to be Sweden’s National Day, for those of you who could not otherwise make the connection). Therefore, I do not see a reason why I should celebrate the Irish National Day. If my Irish friends were to invite me over to join them in their celebrations, I would certainly honor their country as would be appropriate. But if March 17th involves nothing more than carrying on with my regular daily routines, you will not find me recognizing “the day of green”.

Secondly, my religious beliefs do not involve belief in the Holy Trinity as accepted by most Christians faiths, despite being a Christian myself. At this point, you might ask what on earth the Holy Trinity has to do with Ireland’s National Day. To answer this question, we need to chat with the man who gave his name to the holiday, even St. Patrick himself.

Interestingly enough, green is not the color associated with St. Patrick. Rather, blue is his color. So, why green?

St. Patrick (who, ironically, was an Englishman) used the shamrock, a three-leaf clover (), to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. Originally, “wearing of green” simply meant to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing. To wear and/or display shamrocks was seen not only as a sign of Irish nationalism, but also as a sign of loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith.

Again, I am neither Irish nor Catholic. I do not share the belief in the Holy Trinity, of which the shamrock has become a symbol, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.

Following the logic above, I would be perfectly justified to instead wear orange on March 17th. Orange is one of the colors of the Irish flag, in addition to white and green. We already understand why green appears on the flag. But why orange?

William III, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, a Protestant himself, defeated King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the Battle of the Boyne near Dublin. It so happens that William III also was referred to as William of Orange. Although the “Orange” in his name is actually a province in southern France, the color reference stuck. The victory led to Protestant military dominance in Ireland, despite the Protestant faith being in minority compared to the Roman Catholic faith.

Flag or IrelandHence, the green color in the Irish flag represents the Roman Catholic majority, while the orange color represents the Protestant minority.

In recent years it has become a tradition among Protestants (or, simply, anti-Catholics) to wear orange on St. Patrick’s Day as a mark of defiance. Since I am not a Protestant, nor necessarily have anything against individuals of the Roman Catholic faith, I am not going to wear orange either. In fact, I think I am just going to sit this one out, just like I do when Bastille Day comes around, or any other non-U.S. or non-Swedish holiday comes around.

If you choose to wear green, so be it. At least now you know what the color represents, whether you wear green or shamrocks for that reason or not.

If we run into each other today, just know that I will not be wearing green, and that you have no right, whatsoever¹, to pinch me for it!

Did you wear green today? Did you know or realize what the colors and symbols stand for? Do you even care about that?

¹ At least no more right to pinch me than I have to punch you in the nose in response to said pinching.

“Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, ‘the greatest,’ but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.”
Sydney J. Harris (1917–1986)