The Reasons Behind St. Patrick's Day Traditions
Whats the deal with the clover?
As lucky as the four leaf clover may be, the three-leaf clover (referred to as just "a clover") has a stronger connection to the holiday. The clover had religious significance to the Druids because its leaves formed a triad, and the number three was a religious number in Celtic religion. As he introduced Christianity to Ireland in the Fifth Century, St Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the holy trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Okay, so what about the four-leaf clover?
Calm down, I'm getting there.
The Druids believed three-leaf clovers would help you sense evil spirits, so you knew when they were coming and could take the proper Druidian action (no idea) and avoid said evil spirit. The four leaf clover, on the other hand, could help you sense them coming near AND ward them off. It was like the earliest form of two-for-one.
Each leaf has it's own meaning too. The first leaf represents faith, the second is for hope, the third is love and the fourth, appropriately, represents luck.
Why are people threatening to physically abuse me for not wearing green?
Well, the color green means a lot to the Irish. Back when Ireland was beneath English domination, it was illegal to wear green or speak Gaelic, a crime punishable by death. Both the color green and the Gaelic language represented Irish culture so strongly that the English wanted them absolutely gone. The song, The Wearing of the Green, explains it.
It is said that blue was actually the traditional color for St. Patrick's day before green bled through. The color in the flag, and the green clover and Ireland's nickname, "The Emerald Isle" are the main reasons why.
You get pinched as a minor punishment for not embracing the holiday spirit. When you compare a pinch to what the Irish suffered for wearing green under English rule--which was death, it doesn't seem so bad, does it?
Was anyone else aware that you can give up lent on St. Patty's Day?
Traditionally speaking, Lenten prohibitions of eating meat were waved on March 17th and people would dance, drink and feast on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. So basically, as culture evolves and broadens, I think it's safe to say that whatever you've given up for Lent is fair-game on St. Patrick's Day, even if it isn't meat. Go nuts!