The Irish and the Green:
Contrary to popular belief, royal blue was originally the national colour of Ireland. The early Irish flags depicted blue and it was also the colour blue adapted by the Order of Saint Patrick in the 1780s.
With the passage of time, Ireland became associated more with the colour green.
Religion has always been important to the Irish. In the 1640s, the use of the green harp flag by the Irish Catholic Confederation is what made green the colour associated with Ireland. The present national flag of Ireland contains the colour green, along with white and orange.
According to the Irish government, green on the national flag symbolizes the Gaelic political and social order of Ireland or the Catholic side while orange symbolizes the followers of William of Orange in Ireland or the protestant side. The white band in between the green and orange bands in the national flag symbolizes the unity and peace between these two factions.
The colour of the landscapes in Ireland also helped in the association of green with that country. Ireland’s climate preserves the natural green colour of vegetation that surrounds its countryside, hence its identification as the Emerald Isle.
In addition, what made green the colour associated with Ireland is the wearing of green during St. Patrick’s Day, a religious and cultural Irish holiday that falls on the 17th of March.
St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is known to have used the shamrock or three-leafed clover to explain the Holy Trinity to pagans. This is why it became customary to wear green clothes, accessories, and shamrocks in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since the 18th century.
The shamrock has been used in emblems for many Irish organisations:
- The four-leafed clover, a genetic variation of the three-leafed clover, turned out to be a popular symbol which came to represent good luck. The four-leafed clover is a rare find and because of this, tradition suggests that it brings good luck to people who found it.
- The three leaves of the typical clover represent faith, hope, and love, and the rare fourth leaf represents luck.
- Irish folklore depicts characters such as leprechauns and fairies as always wearing green clothing.
Some vintage St Patrick's Day cards:
. . . and a couple of funnies to finish: