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Three distinct types of green have started to emerge in my area. There is the light green displayed by buds of grass and tree leaves emerging from melting snow. A slightly lighter shade of green may be spotted on the artificial “grass” for Easter baskets being sold at local stores. The third hue, an unnaturally thick, dark emerald green accompanied by a distinct three-leafed shamrock shape, can only herald the arrival of one particular day, Saint Patrick’s Day.
The March 17 holiday honoring the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland (who I was surprised to find out was not himself of Irish descent; my inner child also weeps at the possibility that the famous story of his driving all of the snakes out of the Emerald Isle may be just a myth, or more likely, a way for parents of Patrick’s time to explain to their children why their pagan neighbors had suddenly gone missing) is a cause for much celebration for many people. The shamrock, the three-leafed plant seen almost everywhere on this day, has an iconic shape which, according to legend, was adopted by St. Patrick as a symbol for the Christian Trinity; each leaf represents one of each of God’s three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The idea of the distillation of one of Christianity’s fundamental principles into an easy-to-remember shape strongly resonates with me as a Catholic, but I also just love the shape itself because it bears a marked resemblance to another shape I prefer and have addressed in my previous blog about Valentine’s Day, the heart.
A sizable Irish population has always existed in these parts, but even beyond that, in my view, any excuse to celebrate is generally welcomed with open arms by everyone here. Many cities and towns across the United States, including some in my area, hold massive parades on or around the time of the big day. I remember watching part of a St. Pat’s parade on our local television station with a degree of interest when I was younger, which led me to ask my parents what the event was about. Considering the only other parades I had ever seen were my hometown’s local Memorial Day parades and the televised Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving Day, the existence of another parade near me and for St. Patrick’s Day of all things, threw me for a loop. I do, however, greatly enjoy the parades whenever I have a chance to watch them; all of those green-clad marchers appear energetic, invigorating, and fun to me.
My other particularly strong associations with the green holiday lie with the iconography, particularly the increased prevalence of shamrocks and leprechauns in everyday imagery. I get a big kick out of the mythos associated with leprechauns which seems fated to be forever associated with the big day; I’ll admit, as a child, I occasionally looked for gold-filled cauldrons at the ends of rainbows with no success, but leprechauns have always appealed to me on a basic whimsical level guaranteed to make me smile. In addition, there are the green-hued food items of all kinds which only appear around this time. “Shamrock Shakes” at McDonald’s. Check! Lucky Charms cereal running a promotion in which the cereal box is an eye-catching emerald green and the usual assortment of rainbow-colored marshmallows (I have two favorites: the purple horseshoes and the golden… ahem… pots of gold) are replaced with all green four-leaf clovers. Double check!
Saint Patrick’s Day comes in the middle of what feels to me like a chaotic, exciting beginning time of the year in terms of holidays or periods of celebration. New Year’s Day in January, Valentine’s Day in February, St. Patrick’s Day this month, and Easter in the spring. I enjoy taking in and participating in these festivities and celebrations, especially with family and friends!
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Click to see: Children's books by Benjamin Kellogg.