Because that's what St. Patrick's Day does, in spite of the customs we hear more about -- beer and the wearin' o' the green.
|an old postcard - Wikipedia|
Patrick wasn't even Irish -- his family was Romano-Brit. (Yes, Roman - living in Great Britain.) But he was captured by Irish pirates, taken back to Ireland and kept as a slave for years: six+ long years, acting as a shepherd.
Eventually he escaped and made his way home...but had a vision that he was supposed to return to Ireland, this time as a missionary.
Which he did.
Patrick was never canonized. (I'm still wondering where the 'Saint' part kicked in.) But he devoted his life to living with the Irish, and converting them to Christianity. In later years, he served as a bishop. By the 7th century, he was already being venerated by his adopted country.
Patrick's sign was actually a cross - the cross pattee (seen on his robe below) was most associated with him. It was common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon to honor Patrick on his commemorative day. According to Wikipedia:
"Thomas Dinely, an English traveller in Ireland in 1681, remarked that 'the Irish of all stations and condicons [conditions] were [wore] crosses in their hatts, some of pins, some of green ribbon'... In the 1740s, the badges pinned were multicoloured interlaced fabric. In the 1820s, they were only worn by children, with simple multicoloured daisy patterns. In the 1890s, they were almost extinct, and a simple Greek cross inscribed in a circle...' The Irish Times in 1935 reported they were still sold in poorer parts of Dublin, but fewer than those of previous years 'some in velvet or embroidered silk or poplin, with the gold paper cross entwined with shamrocks and ribbons.'"
|Some typical St. Patrick's Day badges from the early 20th century (Wikipedia)|
The shamrock came about as a sermon illustration for the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit). Eventually the plant came to represent Ireland, as well.
Sure, you can wear green...but as the Brick loves to point out, that's what Irish Catholics do. (And we're not. Catholic, that is.) But would I prefer to wear "Prottie" orange, instead?
Better to remember a humble man of great strength who loved to serve God -- and loved his people.
So put on a green sweater tomorrow. Patrick wouldn't have minded, I'm certain of that. Add a cross to your costume, though, and he'd be extra happy. Cook some Irish dishes, while you're at it.
Eire go Brach...
|St. Pat hisself, with cross pattee and four-leaf clover in hand|
Courtesy of Wikipedia