Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wearing of the Green


When I was a kid, all I knew about St. Patrick’s Day was that if I didn’t wear green, I’d surely be wearing black and blue the next day.  I don’t know why, really—something about leprechauns pinching those who weren’t wearing green.  Or something. 

Years later, I’m still not totally up on why exactly Paddy is such a big deal, but at least through the years I have learned that he was a religious leader, that he apparently used a shamrock to help illustrate the Holy Trinity, and that he did not drive all the snakes out of Ireland.  I’m sure I’ve picked up other tidbits along the way, too, though I’m quite certain there are volumes of information I still don’t know.

And, just this morning, I found out that the original color associated with St. Patrick was not green, but blue.  That’s interesting, though I have no desire to try and start the trend of wearing blue on March 17 rather than green.

But here’s a thing that has always perplexed me:  why do we celebrate on the day of his death, rather than his birth? If you look up his birthday, you find that apparently his actual date of birth is unclear, so that could obviously be a problem.  And it’s certainly true that back in those days dates didn’t get tracked as diligently as they do now, and I suppose you wouldn’t want to just pick a day randomly for celebration.  Still, he was from a wealthy family; you’d think those sort of folks would’ve made note of it somewhere, but apparently not.  Back then, he was just another kid born into the world.

The thing that somehow seems most telling about Patrick’s goodness, the impact he had, and the esteem in which he was held, though, is that fact that there is a generally accepted date of death.  Because it was still a long time ago, right?  And though there is still some debate about which year the man actually passed, but the general consensus for calendar date is March 17.  So, in an era when they didn’t record dates very diligently, and at a time when history was recorded haphazardly enough that a precise date cannot be fixed, folks still mostly agree on a specific day of a specific month.  That seems to imply that his passing was viewed as something of importance.

So, while I still think it would be nicer to have a day of celebration on the man’s birthday rather than his death day, I think maybe the way it is just further highlights that he really was a man worthy of celebration, even if what we mostly do is wear green with no understanding of why.