Every year, as soon as March comes around, we get constant emails asking why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
It’s a fair questions. Especially as some people wear orange.
Green is the colour most associated with Ireland and its Patron Saint, however, it wasn’t always the colour associated with March 17th.
Some quick-need-to-knows about wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day
Before we go into detail on why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, lets get you up-to-speed quickly:
1. Green wasn’t the original colour of St Patrick
The earliest images of St. Patrick show him wearing blue, and this probably dates back to early Irish mythology when the sovereignty of Ireland – “Flaitheas Éireann” – was typically symbolised by a woman dressed in a blue robe.
2. Why people wear green
Green represents the Catholic side of the Irish flag, and it’s also seen as symbolic of other icons of Ireland, such as the shamrock and the emerald isle.
3. Getting pinched if you don’t
One of the many St. Patrick’s Day traditions involves getting pinched if you don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. Now, I’ve spent 33+ years in Ireland and I’ve never seen/heard of this practised, so it’s likely a very only tradition or one that’s only practised across the pond.
Wearing green on St Patrick’s Day
Right – now that the need-to-knows are out of the way, let’s look further into why do we wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Below, you’ll find info on St. Patrick and his original colour, the religious element and more.
1. What green symbolises
The colour green, along with the harp, the Claddagh and the Shamrock, is one of several notable Irish symbols.
From the jerseys worn by Ireland’s rugby team to the liveries on Aer Lingus’s aircraft, green is now the colour of Ireland and it’s everywhere on St Patrick’s Day!
And the green you’ll see on March 17th is symbolic of a number of iconic images of Ireland, such as the three-leaved shamrock plant, the idea of Ireland as the ‘Emerald Isle’ and, of course, the green third of the Irish flag.
2. How people wear it
Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day takes a number of forms. Some like to give a gentle nod to March 17th by wearing a green tie or green socks.
Others (and I’m including my younger self in this) go all out and lash on every bit of green they can find.
I can remember after one particularly rowdy St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin spending many hours the following day trying to remove green hair dye from my eyebrows… which are normally white.
3. Some people wear orange
Not everyone wears green on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and elsewhere! The colour orange is symbolic of the Protestant community and their heritage, and may be something they wish to showcase on St Patrick’s Day.
It derives from Protestant William of Orange defeating Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne and is often seen around Protestant Ireland.
St. Patrick was born centuries before the country’s religious divide, however, and the day can be celebrated by both communities.
4. The pinching tradition
Not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day comes with a warning – you may get pinched!
Now, this is an old tradition and one that you don’t see practised that often.
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of it, as it seems to be a ‘tradition’ cooked up in America. In fact, it was over in the States where they came up with the wearing green on St Patrick’s Day thing in the first place!
Anyway, if you’re not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day then you may be on the receiving end of a pinch, so the tradition goes.
5. It may make you invisible…
The idea is that wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to make you invisible to leprechauns.
Hence, if you’re not wearing green then they’ll be able to spot you in a crowd and the mischievous little cretins will give you a wee pinch for such a huge sartorial blunder.
But whether you think they’re a quaint part of Irish folklore or not, at least it’s only one day of the year you’ll need to hear stuff like this!
FAQs about why green on St. Patrick’s Day
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘Why is green associated with St. Patrick’s Day?’ to ‘Do you have to wear green?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below. Here are some related reads you should find interesting:
- 73 Funny St. Patrick’s Day Jokes For Adults And Kids
- The Best Irish Songs And The Best Irish Films Of All Time For Paddy’s Day
- 8 Ways That We Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day In Ireland
- The Most Notable St. Patrick’s Day Traditions In Ireland
- 17 Tasty St. Patrick’s Day Cocktails To Whip Up At Home
- How To Say Happy St. Patrick’s Day In Irish
- 5 St. Patrick’s Day Prayers And Blessings For 2024
- 17 Surprising Fact’s About St. Patrick’ Day
- 33 Interesting Facts About Ireland
What was the original color associated with St. Patrick’s Day?
The colour blue was originally associated with St. Patrick and it is therefore likely that it would have been associated in some way with the early St. Patrick’s Days.
Should I wear orange or green on St. Patrick’s Day?
It’s up to you. Wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is arguably more traditional. Some Protestants looking to celebrate the Patron Saint along with their heritage may choose to wear orange.
Are you supposed to wear green on St Patrick Day?
There’s no real rules but people generally wear green on St. Patrick’s Day as it’s the colour most associated with both Ireland and our Patron Saint.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.