Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today, the Chicago River runs green, revelers sip green beer, and millions of people around the world don the color of the Emerald Isle. If you forgot to wear your favorite green shirt, ask this question before you fall victim to a pinch – should we be wearing blue instead?
St. Patrick’s Day has long been associated with green, and rightly so; it is one of three colors in Ireland’s flag, the shamrock is the symbol of St. Patrick, and the country is known for its lush verdant countryside. Yet surprisingly, Ireland has a longer association with the color blue. The mythical Irish sovereign Flaitheas Éireann was represented in national heraldry as a woman dressed in blue robes, and St. Patrick himself is shown in religious artworks wearing blue vestments. Henry VIII declared himself the King of Ireland in 1541 and designed a new coat of arms to further establish his rule: a golden harp on a blue background, which still appears on the Constitution of Ireland and the Presidential flag. In 1783, King George III initiated the Order of the Knights of St. Patrick; members wore pale blue robes in a shade now known as “St. Patrick’s Blue.”
So why are you surrounded by green this St. Patrick’s Day instead of blue? As citizens of Ireland grew more committed to home rule, blue came to represent English authority – after all, King Henry VIII designed the coat of arms, and King George III created the Order of St. Patrick. To deviate from British blues and reds, the Society of United Irishmen embraced the shamrock and the color green as a symbol of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. Soldiers wore green on their uniforms and adopted “The Wearing of the Green” as the nationalist ballad. The color’s association with Irish pride and culture traveled to the United States throughout the 19th century, where immigrants celebrated their homeland with joyful St. Patrick’s Day parades and of course, plenty of green.
In honor of St. Patrick and all things Irish, we present a selection of emerald-hued objects from the FIDM Museum Collection - and don't miss this 2010 post on famous Irish fashion designer Sybil Connolly. Sláinte!
Oscar de la Renta
Gift of Alexis G. Scharff