Behind the myths
Did St. Patrick really banish snakes from Ireland, how did he select the simple shamrock as his emblem and why does the color green symbolize Ireland and the Irish across the world?
Behind the myths of St Patrick
First, let’s tackle the snakes. Apart from our modern-day zoos, it’s true that there are no snakes slithering around the green isle. But this has little to do with St. Patrick and probably more to do with the fact that there have never been any indigenous snakes in Ireland. Driving the snakes from Ireland was most likely symbolic of putting an end to pagan practices, which disappeared from Ireland in the centuries after St. Patrick introduced the seeds of Christianity.
Why do people wear green?
With 10 times the population of Ireland in the US claiming Irish ancestry, one in four Britons doing the same, and countless more in other countries around the world, it seems that people wishing to become ‘Irish for the day’ have opted for the green of the Irish flag to express their Irishness. In fact, in the US, it’s not uncommon to spot folks sporting hand-drawn shamrocks on their cheeks with streaks of green running through their hair. Some cities like Chicago go all out and dye the entire Chicago River green just to mark the big day!
What about the Shamrock?
St. Patrick used this simple green herb to explain the concept of The Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit – and how they could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His followers adopted the custom of wearing a shamrock on his feast day.
And here’s something you mightn’t know...
The Irish didn’t always look so kindly on donning the color green. Irish folklore considered the color unlucky as it was the favorite shade of the Good People – leprechauns. Those who wore too much of the color – especially children – could be stolen away. Some cynics may tell you there are no such things as leprechauns, but there are those who beg to differ. True believers will swear that if you take a stroll along a quiet country lane in Ireland, you can actually hear the mischievous leprechauns giggling by the side of the road.