There are many theories bandied about on the web about why we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Some of these theories revolve around green being a part of the Irish Flag, Ireland being a green country and the honoring of an old Irish custom of spreading ashes on the fields to make the land richer. Sadly, there is a darker truth to the reason we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green.
Ireland was heavily scrutinized and under attack from England throughout history. At times the Irish people were not much more than slaves. There was an Irish song “The Wearing of the Green” that was about the English repression of the Irish around the time of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. Wearing a Shamrock was a sign of rebellion and green was also the color of the Society of the United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary organization. As such, wearing of these revolutionary insignias was made punishable by hanging.
A symbol of freedom and rebellion lead to the tradition so many of us take part in today. As with many holidays celebrated around the world each year, the wearing of green didn’t become as important to St. Patrick’s Day until the Irish immigrated to America. Although this time it wasn’t because we commercialized the holiday, that happened later, it was because the American Irish were trying to gain power in this country through politics and they were organizing their voting bloc, known as the “green machine”. This Irish movement became an important swing vote for political candidates and thus the encouragement began to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day in order to help politicians win elections.