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The Origins of the Irish Flag

by Christine Siampos on 2023-03-17T14:31:39-05:00 | 0 Comments

     “You’ll get pinched if you don’t wear green.”

     Growing up, I’m sure we’ve all heard this phrase around St. Patrick’s Day, prompting us to call attention to the Emerald Isle and the saint that the day was named for. Green is also the color the Irish used when they fought for freedom in the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, when the Catholics of Ireland revolted against the discrimination from and loss of their lands to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.

     But recently, this writer has found that wearing orange is also encouraged on St. Patrick’s Day. Now, one would assume that it’s to complete the other half of the Irish flag—so the argument could be made that white is acceptable as well—but it turns out that orange represents the Irish Protestants. The color is worn to represent William of Orange, a Protestant figurehead who was king of England, Ireland, and Scotland until 1702. Today he is still held in high regard by Protestants in Ireland, and the Orange Order in Northern Ireland is named after him.

     While it’s true that there are only a handful of Protestants in Ireland today (and even less Lutherans), the flag still calls attention to the denomination with its final orange stripe.

     The flag was officially flown for the first time on as a cry against the English during the Irish War of Independence and eventually became Ireland’s official flag when they won.  The green stripe represents the Gaelic tradition and the Catholic population, while the orange stripe represents the Protestant population. The white stripe in the middle calls for peace and unity between them.

     So if you see people wearing orange today, suppress the urge to pinch them, as they are celebrating the holiday just as much as the next person. All in all, this brings a new meaning to St. Patrick’s Day in America as well as Ireland: a holiday that brings the two religions together.

If  you're interested in learning more about Irish history, check out these books!

Cover ArtA Companion to Catholicism and Recusancy in Britain and Ireland by Robert E. Scully SJ (Editor)
Call Number: BX1492 .C667 2022
ISBN: 9789004151611
Publication Date: 2021-12-16
Cover ArtCultural Exchange and Identity in Late Medieval Ireland by Sparky Booker
Call Number: DA925 .B665 2018
ISBN: 9781107128088
Publication Date: 2018-03-22
Cover ArtIreland and the Reception of the Bible by Andrew Mein (Series edited by); Claudia V. Camp (Series edited by); Matthew A. Collins (Series edited by); Bradford A. Anderson (Editor, Editor); Jonathan Kearney (Editor, Editor)
Call Number: BS586.I74 I745 2018
ISBN: 9780567678874
Publication Date: 2018-04-19

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