St Patricks Day – Who, What, Why and When?!
Saint Patrick's Day, or the Feast of Saint Patrick, is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17th March, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland.
Nowadays, St Patrick's Day is a global celebration of Irish culture. It particularly remembers St Patrick, one of Ireland's patron saints, who ministered Christianity in Ireland during the fifth century. St Patrick's Day is celebrated in countries with people of Irish descent.
If you are Irish, you are likely to take part in that time-honored tradition of wearing green. If not, you risk punishment by pinch, an especially popular custom on schoolyards and around office water coolers. Thus, wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day is not only widely practiced, it’s virtually required! It’s hard to imagine the holiday without green.
But for a growing number of people, taking part in the holiday means wearing orange. According to this increasingly popular tradition, Protestants wear orange and leave green attire to Catholics. Thus, the colour you wear actually depends on your religious affiliation. While this colour tradition is not well known, it has deep roots in Irish history.
Protestant Irish have been known as “orange” ever since 1690, when William of Orange (William III), the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, defeated King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the Battle of the Boyne near Dublin. King William’s victory would ensure Protestant dominance on the island and has been a source of tension ever since.
Although the “Orange” in William’s name actually referred to a province in southern France, the colour reference stuck. This is why orange now appears in the Irish flag — to symbolize the Protestant minority in Ireland.
Thus, “Orange Protestants” have been around for quite a while, but wearing the colour on Saint Patrick’s is a relatively new phenomenon.
Ironically, Saint Patrick himself would have been surprised by all of the fuss. Patrick wasn’t even Irish; he came to Celtic Ireland as a British missionary. More importantly, Patrick did most of his work in the fifth century, at a time when Christians were simply Christians, long before any division was evident between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
Therefore, some believe that Saint Patrick belongs to the whole church, not just Rome, and people of all colours and creeds should take part in the festivities.
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