The Wearing of The Blue: St. Paddy's Day

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by Anglicans (including the Church of Ireland), the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Lutherans. And oh, yeah, the Catholic Church.

I love Irish music. The Pogues and The Dubliners are in constant rotation at the ol' Giant Manse. I love the songs about whiskey, and lost love, and hangings, and whiskey, and shipwrecks, and immigration, and evil landlords, and whiskey. I don't love so much the nationalistic songs. Don't get me wrong; I like the tunes that bemoan the enmity between green and orange; I like some of the war songs, but not the ones that reek of 19th century nationalism.

The history of the conflict for Ireland is complicated and ugly. But as ugly as war and rebellion and empire can be, it was not ethnicity or religion that made women and children fair game during the 20th century. It was Republicanism. It was nationalism.

The Rebellion of 1798 was an Irish attempt to replicate the French Revolution, a godless ruthless thing if ever there was one. In fact, it was supported financially and militarily by the French Republic (this was before Napoleon). Those are the roots of Irish nationalism. And those are the roots of wearing green!

As a Reformed Christian, I know dudes who wear orange on St. Patrick's Day. Their thinking is, Green for papists, Orange for Presbyterians. I'm Presbyterian, so I'll wear orange.

I certainly won't wear green on St. Patrick's Day. I enjoy opposing dead and nearly-dead political movements, and Irish Republicanism is something I don't mind saying I oppose (even though I know it will seem to some that I'm choosing to side with the bully in a playground fight). St. Patrick's Day is a religious feast day. It ought to be celebrated as such. And as it happens, the wearing of the green has nothing to do with St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's color used to be blue. For 1500 years it was blue. When the Republicans co-opted Irish patriotism and religion, Saint Paddy started being depicted wearing green instead of blue.

I'm not going to wear green on St. Paddy's Day. Pinch me if you dare, little man. As much as I love my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, I'm not willing to identify with such a deeply fallen and troubled church. Or, more importantly and as mentioned above, with what the Roman church has syncretized with in Ireland: political 19th-century style nationalism.

I'm not going to wear orange. I've done it a couple of times, just to not wear green, and because I do trace my ecclesiastical and blood roots back to the Orange of Presbyterianism. But I also don't want to be an ass. I am a bit of a provocateur, but I recognize that sometimes it's too much. Wearing orange can make it seem like you're saying, "Sure wish the fighting in Ireland were back on, and that the Protestants were kicking some papist butt." Which is not a good thing to say.

Consider wearing blue this St. Paddy's Day, as I am. How irenic of us it will be! There's a shade of blue actually known as St. Patrick's Blue. On this day you can with sartorial ease state your desire that the Western churches reunite one day in sweet peace and harmony.

And you'll also be taking a stand against green beer. Which is no bad thing.


  1. Just order a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or in Canada, a Labatt's Blue will do.

  2. I don't pick out my outfits days in advance, usually.


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