Green Irish, Orange Irish

In seventh grade history our teacher asked the class what separated Northern Ireland from the rest of Ireland. I was a back of the class kind of girl, but when no one else knew the answer I finally raised my hand. The whole class laughed when I said Green and Orange, but the teacher said I was right, and asked if I knew what the colors meant. I couldn’t claim to be Irish if I didn’t. Well, mostly Irish anyway. The Irish was diluted a bit by the time it reached my Sister and I, but there was still enough of it in our Grandmother for her to make sure we knew what was what. On St Patrick’s Day in particular was when she made it a point of reminding us. You don’t wear green today, she would say, your not Catholic, your Protestant. Not that we actually practised religion in my house. The closest my Grandmother ever came to excepting Jesus as her saviour was when she was screaming for him to give her patience not to kill me, but on St Paddy’s day we weren’t just Irish, we were orange Irish. Technically, since our Mother was Catholic Irish, we should have worn brown, but no one would have gotten the joke. She loved to tell us the story of her own Grandmother as a child being chased home from school because she chose to wear orange stockings on St Patrick’s day and not green. I could tell by the way she would tell us, that she was proud of her Grandmother for standing up for what she believed in. Everyone wears green on St Paddy’s day because they think it represents what it means to be Irish, but very few really understand the intricate link between the color and religion, or the religious persecutions hidden beneath the layers of the traditions they practice. My Grandmother despite her non religious approach of raising us taught me that St Patrick’s day is a decidedly religious holiday, and that there is more to the day then green wigs, Guinness, and leprechauns. She also instilled in me the importance of standing up for ones beliefs, and that it was all right not to follow the crowd. It is true that I’m Irish, but I am neither Catholic, or Protestant, so I don’t wear green or orange on St Patrick’s Day, having been taught by my Grandmother what they represent.

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