Thursday, March 4, 2010

the wearin' o' the green


When I was in elementary school, it was not such a good idea to
show up on March 17th, wearing anything other than green. All
three hundred some students would take much pleasure in delivering
their hardest, twisting pinch. This odd practice taught me, at a tender
age, that you get pinched if you're a nonconformist. I also found out
that pinching gives you bruises, so you actually can have some green
on you, if you forget to wear it.
.
Pinching those not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is a long
standing American tradition, having really nothing to do with St. Pat.
It does, however, involve the Irish and Leprechauns. It's thought
that the pinching started in the early 1700s, in the Massachusetts
colony. It was believed, if you wore green, it made you invisible to
the Leprechauns, who were known to pinch anyone they could see.
.
My mother, never big on holidays or traditions, certainly did not
promote the "wearin' o' the green". WE don't WEAR green on
St. Patrick's Day. She would say, with more than a little disdain.
WE'RE not Irish! Well, it only took a few years of coming home black,
blue, and green from school on St. Paddy's, for me to learn to look
lively, and be sure to wear green on March 17th. To this day, I
proudly wear, not only green, but my favorite shamrock brooch, as
well.
.
The amusing thing is, while I was doing genealogical research
several years back, I found that my paternal line, although
originating in Scotland, spent several hundred years in Ireland
before migrating to America. I also found a paternity issue in my
maternal line, which proved to be quite interesting. As it turns out,
my mother is, after all, of Irish descent, with a little Cherokee
thrown in for good measure.
.
.

93 comments:

  1. So... does this mean you have to take the Zhivago hat off?

    Oh, wait... that might work out nicely. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pinching doesn't sound like fun! I might try it though, on someone else!

    CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, those ubiquitous Scots-Irish!

    I remember the pinching. But the least bit of green, visible anywhere on one's person was enough to keep the pinchers at bay. I like green socks, myself.

    Beautiful photo!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember once wearing orange on St Patrick's day as a kid, and someone yelled at me. How silly is that??

    The pinching is a wee bit disturbing...but the wearing of the green isn't so bad in the end, I suppose! I'm part Irish (a very small part) too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Something about St. Patty's Day that turns us all into Irish lads and lassies.

    And, if we scratch hard enough, somewhere, somehow, we are all connected.
    I look forward to corned beef and cabbage, and coffee with Irish whiskey and whipped cream. Food will provide all the punctuating marks for this occasion.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A "quite interesting" paternity issue, you say? That sounds intriguing but ... probably best left under your Dr. Zhivago hat.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Haha! Sounds very intriguing indeed :) I am Irish and we DO wear green on St. Paddy's day. Although, some kids thought it fun sport to pinch those of us even when we wore green. Violent tendencies exhibited at an early age...

    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  9. always wear green on st patty's day...had some vicious pinches as a kid...one of the local pubs dyes their bagels green for their sandwiches which makes for some intersting returns later on...the holiday that keeps on giving...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hahaaa! Isn't that interesting! Well, my grandmother was the exact opposite--we HAD to wear something green. It was "the law." "Sure'n you're NOT going out like that, without any green, now are ye'? Hmph."

    My mom told me that in Scotland, as a little girl, (a little Catholic girl, at that) she would walk home from school, and some of the Protestant kids screamed at her, "Dirty, dirty Papist." She wasn't upset, because she said she had no idea what they meant, but she figured it couldn't be good.

    To this day, I always try to find something green I can put on--I have some very green earrings that I get out once a year...

    ReplyDelete
  11. I remember the pinching at school, ours was a mixed boys and girls school, so back then a few pinches from the right fella's was fun.
    My granddad's are both Irish, Killarney and Dublin respectively.
    The Irish have a unique outlook on life..

    For the great Gaels of Ireland
    Are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry
    And all their songs are sad.
    G.K. Chesterton

    ReplyDelete
  12. Vicki, ah, yes, I'll be wearin' me green woolly socks!

    ReplyDelete
  13. ...and if it's still this cold, my Zhivago hat, as well!

    ReplyDelete
  14. My kids love the pinching day stuff despite the fact that they've not one inch of Irish in them -- although I'm wondering, now, given your story and the fact that my maternal grandmother is Scotch/English...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Although I have Irish in my heritage, looking at me, you wouldn't notice. I don't believe that you have to be of a certain ethnicity to honor holidays. I love celebrating all holidays. It's the American way. So, I'll be wearing green on St. Patrick's Day.

    I never heard of the pinching practice. Good thing because that hurts. Cheers Willow!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I never knew the origin of the pinching tradition, but always avoided it by wearing green. You could always pin your shamrock brooch on your Zhivago hat...kill 2 birds with one stone (from yesterday's post : )
    We have a plant like the one you have in your photo. It just started blooming the pretty white flowers. I think it's called a shamrock plant...Bach would know : )

    ReplyDelete
  17. Being an American mutt, you can just go with the assumption that you have a little bit of everything somewhere down the line :) I like your spin on wearing the green relevent to giving in to conformity

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, Cat, it's a shamrock! It loves to be outside in the shade of the patio during the summer months. It's one of my faves.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ah, yes. I remember the pinching well... still wear green on St. Patrick's Day, too.

    My latest tradition from the past few years is to spend the afternoon with my Irish mom having tea & cookies whilst watching QVC's St. Paddy's Day special..ha! the only time of the year I can stand to be in the same room with the television on for more than an hour..

    Slainté!

    ReplyDelete
  20. It's a hat?
    I thought it was your hair.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yes, Peter, it's a fur HAT! ((giggles))

    ReplyDelete
  22. My youngest son was born on St Paddy's Day so we've always decorated for his birthday with an Irish theme. I just bought the plates and cups for this year's party....Kiss Me I'm Irish.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This pinching must be an American thing - I don't remember it from school at all!
    Your shamrock brooch sounds lovely as is the photo of your very healthy-looking Shamrock!

    Jeanne

    ReplyDelete
  24. well, and it's wonderful to be seeing a bit of the green showing over at the manor, lady willow - and seems we share the little mix of scottish, irish and cherokee roots -
    always wonderful visiting the manor!

    ReplyDelete
  25. As a matter of fact, I am not going to wear anything green on March 17th:).
    But on the other way I would love to have a pint of a good green beer at an Irish pub that night!

    ReplyDelete
  26. So is my mom! Irish and Cherokee, that is... but she's always let it be known from the rooftops, very proud of both.

    ReplyDelete
  27. So is my mom! Irish and Cherokee, that is... but she's always let it be known from the rooftops, very proud of both.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Everyone is Irish one day every year. We Irish welcome all ye into the fold, don't forget the green beer!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Can you then imagine the confusion of my 9 year-old self when I came to the US and showed up in pink on St. Pat's Day? My knowledge of English was very limited, and I did all I could to hold my tears in. When I went home I told my parents that everyone hated me and I never wanted to go to school again. My dad took me to school the next morning where he proceeded to kiss my teacher's hand, to my immense mortification, probably thinking that his outdated European customs would make a difference.
    But, boy was I relieved when I found out that everyone liked me and the pinching wasn't personal.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I never really understood this as a kid, so was pinched quite a lot...but regardless if the "pincher" was wearing th' green or not...they got pinched back worse, heh, heh...

    Thanks for the history on this :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. In grammar school students would pinch and spank if there was no green visible on someone. You are so right about learning early on the treatment for being an individual and not following the rest of the sheep. Smile.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Tis an Irish Blessing I'm sending to a Pretty Lady. My family did the same Started in Leiden Holland, they had bad times then to Scotland, still have an Uncle there, to Ireland to America.
    Celtic for sure.
    I thought it was cause they hated any one wearing Orange.Learn everything at the Manor. My best yvonne PS I got a pinch in Rome LOL

    yvonne

    ReplyDelete
  33. Don't know if there's any irish in me. English, yes but we have only gone back to the 1500s so who knows. supposedly some Scottish on my dad's side but that's from the name only as we can't get farther back than about three or four generations due to a serious family split sometime around the civil war. Regardless, I always forget to wear green. Usually don't even realize what day it is.

    ReplyDelete
  34. how did your ma miss the memo that on st. patrick's day everyone is irish!

    thanks for the background info on the pinching bit!

    and leah,yeah, not a good idea to wear orange on st. patrick's day - unless you want to disturb the peace accord!

    when I was young we'd really only pinch those in orange, knowing where their sympathies lie

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm an Irish wannabe... altho IRL I'm German/Norwegian/English... My husband is Irish/English, so I guess I am by marriage. We've been over there twice and fell in love with the place. Gorgeous. If I didn't like green before, I definitely do NOW!
    I got pinched a lot as kid... and not just on St. Patrick's day. My siblings were just that way.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Green doesn't work with my skin tone so I'm glad it is only once a year!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I never heard of pinching someone if they weren't wearing green around here...I'll have to ask my kids if they suffered through that...I am partly Irish but no one ever made a big deal about wearing green on St. Patricks Day...Now going out and drinking green beer was a different thing:)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Leave it to the Puritans to put the pinch on the non-conforming.

    Isn't there an Irish saying that everyone is Irish on St.Patty's Day?

    ReplyDelete
  39. I love the notion of everyone being Irish on St. Paddy's Day!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I had no idea the pinching tradition, which I remember well from grammar school, went back so far. I am already flying my Snoopy shamrock flag and will be wearing green, just in case, on the 17th.

    ReplyDelete
  41. yes, I have memories of being younger and my 'fear' of going to school without something green on-- the fear of being pinched all day-- I always managed to find something green.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Ah those Irish, they've found their way into many a blood line.

    With Irish, Scottish and English in my bloodlines I'm pretty much open to any celebration.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Wilow,
    Although I do admire you under the the Zhivago hat, this new pic is quite fetching.

    I must admit that I never heard of the pinching tradition for the non-green-wearers. Being French, or so I thought, I more than likely wore orange or anything but green.

    Which leads me to reveal the gleanings from my genealogy research; The frenchmen in my lineage had a penchant for those classy Irish lasses and it turns out that I'm more Irish than anything else; 75% at last look. Throw in a smidgeon of Scott and a dram of Brit, and that leaves precious little french.

    So here's to the wearin' o' the green to ya lassie.
    rel

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you, Rel. xx
    The picture's not exactly new, it was taken last summer.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Gee, I never heard of the pinching tradition. (That's not nice!) One of my St. Patrick's traditions is to put green food coloring in the beer, even though I'm not Irish. Love those shamrocks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I don't remember this tradition until I was, myself, a teacher. I learned to keep a green brooch in my desk to protect me!

    Isn't everyone a little bit Irish on St. Paddy's Day?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Willow,
    Thanks for the info on the pinch issue on St. Pat's Day. Yes, I believe St. Pat's is for all to enjoy, even green beer! Good of you, my lass, to set the record straight, as we left our cheers to our blessed Saint. A bit o' green to yee, my sweet.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I remember all that pinching...there was 'pinching to grow an inch' on birthdays in the schoolyard too. I wonder if anyone pinches anymore...might be out of fashion!

    ReplyDelete
  49. Wow willow, another American custom I knew nothing about! Fascinating green insight, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Truly it is amazing what we find out while doing genealogy. I love it. Can't wait to see that show on Friday about ancestry. My gramma would not let us out of her house without 'the wearing of the green'.
    QMM

    ReplyDelete
  51. I'm Irish but I never wear green on St. Patrick's Day. I'm too much of a rebel. That, and I'm Scots-Irish. I'm up too :)

    ReplyDelete
  52. Yep. I remember those days, too. I think I did my share of hunting for who was greenless if I was. No sense in taking punches alone. When you're married to a Jamie Reilly, you really CAN'T get away with not wearin' the green. :)

    ReplyDelete
  53. oh, memories...
    lol...
    i remember when one poor lad showed the elastic rim of green on his briefs...just so he could avoid the pinchy wrath of his peers.

    what were we thinking, back then?

    ReplyDelete
  54. I made the mistake of reading the comments before writing my comments and now all I can think of is the Zhivago hat...very interesting discussion but I digress..ah yes wearing green --have a wee bit of irish in me along with italian, french,english, german, american indian-basically heinz 57--so wearing of the green wasn't that important until I made the mistake of wearing orange(not intentionally--before I was Jackson you could call me clueless among other things) to school one year on St Paddy's day--oh boy that wasn't good--I received a lesson very quickly..ah the memories of childhood --happy tt!

    ReplyDelete
  55. I grew up hearing of my Irish relations in Dublin, how my great-grandfather Will left the Emerald isle and came to America to do whatever came his way--laying tracks for the railroad and finally mining in the Black Hills. Then later I learned that his forebears had actually come over with William of Orange! They weren't really Celts at all.
    Rest assured, I do not wear orange on St. Pat's day. Horrors. And a lot of time I don't wear green because I forget what date it is. I'm not good with dates.
    But I did know you were wearing a hat, for Pete's sake!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Wow, I'm glad they didn't have that tradition at Oxford High.
    We had Dippy Day instead

    ReplyDelete
  57. Never heard of this tradition on this side of 'the pond'. Here it's 'a pinch and a punch for the 1st of the month'. We'll have to think again.

    Bisou, Cro.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Sorry for your childhood bruises. IF we get some rain, the shamrocks in my garden should show a leaf or two.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Not a drop of Irish in me...yet I'm often asked if I am Irish?
    Can also Irish dance the pants off any other geriatric on the planet
    Shuffle 1234567

    ReplyDelete
  60. Pinching - not a tradition here is Oz. I might start it this year. My wife, as they say is bog irish and makes a distinction between the Irish and the rest of the world. I too am 50% Irish but I hold my 25% Italian side more closely - its a better story.
    I was in New York on March 17 1988 and was amazed. Everyone was in green - office workers, kids, white people, black people, police, shopkeepers .... I left 34th Street at about 9:30 am to walk New York. The St Partick's Day parade had begun. I ended up at the Museum of Modern Art for a few hours only to emerge at about 4pm to find the end of the march still winding its way past Central Park. It felt like I was the only one without a green embellishment in the city.

    ReplyDelete
  61. An rud is annamh is iontach.

    ReplyDelete
  62. These old traditions fascinate me. Great, informative post.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Like lots of the other English in this box I'd never heard of the pinching thing. All I ever noticed was big parties going on in Irish pubs (and I did go to one once...much fun).
    x

    ReplyDelete
  64. We honour Saint Patrick's day here too in Australia.

    My husband whose mother was an O'Brien particularly.

    When I was a child all Catholic schools marched through the city streets on St Patrick's Day. Not any more. Australia has its Anglo Celtic origins. Many of our ancestors come from Irish stock.

    The trouble for me is that I do not own a single item of clothing that is green. My husband only has one green tie.

    ReplyDelete
  65. I liked this post about the color green. We don't celebrate St Patricks Day over here, so I haven't suffered any bruises from pinching... What a strange tradition... I love green, but I don't really wear green that often. It's more like I am a huge fan of things that are green and that grow... :) /Jo.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Little Hat, the beauty of our mixed heritages is that we can choose the better story! I love it, don't you?

    ReplyDelete
  67. I love St. Patrick's Day. When I was an art teacher in an elementary school, the kids drew Leprechauns. In Huntington there is a St. Patrick's Church, so we have the second largest parade in NY after the one in NYC. Many of the same groups march here the Sunday before the 17th. Everyone wears green, even a Sicilian descendant like me. I never heard about the pinching.

    ReplyDelete
  68. 'you get pinched if you're a nonconformist' - such a great line for a sampler pillow.

    la Willow-pillow, yes? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  69. Hello Willow,

    Thank goodness, I was blissfully unaware of the pinching aspect of St. Patrick's Day. Probably didn't know what day it was either! But it seems all our American cousins are related to our Irish cousins!

    ReplyDelete
  70. The only green I own is my green woolly sweater, the one that rings in the winter months, to my disdain, but usually by the time it arrives, I am more than relishing it's prickly comfort!!!

    But by the 17th, I hope it is long ushered away!!!

    ReplyDelete
  71. Ouch - I remember the pinching all too well. Love your picture - so pretty. So very green. I have Irish in my background but I usually forget to wear green on St. Paddy's day. Very nice posting sweetie. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  72. While green is not my best color, I am of Irish, English and Scottish descent and I do try to remember to wear green and my various shades of green eye shadow...and I will indulge in a few shots of good Irish whiskey. I used to make the boys green eggs and ham when they were little!! They were never impressed with that!!

    ReplyDelete
  73. Wow, I'm really happy we don't do the pinching thing where I come from. It doesn't sound nice at all. I'm going to have to wear green on St Patrick's day from now on, just to be safe.

    ReplyDelete
  74. The pinchers had such zeal when they pinched! Grade school had such a learning curve....

    ReplyDelete
  75. This was a great story! I admire your economy with words. It made me remember a day when I was visiting a highschool friend in Boston - being the self-absorbed, dramatically depressed young artists that we were, St. Patrick's day simply didn't register with us - when the bus we were on filled with boisterous dressed-up people drunken revellers we simply thought the world had gone mad. It was kind of an exciting thought - then we noticed everyone was wearing green..

    ReplyDelete
  76. I enjoy a glass of Irish coffee, movies set in Ireland (so green!), potatoes, Enya's music, soda bread, cabbage but no corned beef being vegetarian.............oh almost forgot, AND my wonderful husband of Irish descent, just wish his grandfather hadn't dropped the O from O'Sullivan! For a true-blooded English gal I might deserve a medal for putting up with 46 years of blarney perhaps, ha! ha!

    Lovely post Willow - wishing you shamrocks and gentle pinches come St. Paddy's day!

    ReplyDelete
  77. I must confess I never knew about the wearing of The Green let alone the Pinching.I must go A-Pinching down my local Irish Club on Paddy's Day.Although I must also remember not to wear Orange or else I will be Pinched (or Punched) in Return!

    ReplyDelete
  78. To the best of my knowledge, the Irish don't even consider green to be lucky, but we still do it around here! I'd never heard of the pinching ritual, although my mother-in-law has this crazy, "Pinch, punch, first-of-the-month" ritual. I stay well out of her way for that.

    Have you ever seen the film, "The Flight of the Doves", Willow? Cue it up for the 17th!

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  79. Kat,I just looked up The Flight of the Doves. There's the 1971 version and it looks like there's a remake in 1994. Which one do you recommend?

    ReplyDelete
  80. I am Irish and my son actually plays for them but I refuse to wear the green out of my stubborn response to all of the havoc St. Patrick created that they don't tell us about in the history books at school. I get my Irish panties in a bunch every year!

    ReplyDelete
  81. I still have my little girl shamrock jewelery. The bracelet is gone, but I wear the pendant from the necklace still...the prettiest enameled shamrock with a pearl center set in gold. It channels so many things: childhood, a gift from my mother, my mother's insistence I wear it every March 17th, some sort of protective amulet...I dunno. I just know I always wear it and it's a longstanding tradition now.

    I had forgotten the pinching at school, but "yes," that too. And now that my mind has "gone there,"--my mother always kept a shamrock plant in her kitchen window.

    I usually meet a friend in Annapolis on that day. She's the Irish. I'm the Anglo-Scot. We make sure we eat corned beef and cabbage and soda bread and hot tea. Another tradition.

    I also just put up a lovely photograph of shamrocks as my screensaver yesterday. It captures the mixed shades they come in, including burgundy. It was so cheery, it set the tone for the day...and the month.

    ReplyDelete
  82. P.S. My husband wears enough green for the whole family, leprechauns and faeries included!

    ReplyDelete
  83. Growing up in a predominately Irish Catholic community I am certainly familiar with the wearin 'o' the green and the pinching tradition you write about.

    I was never subjected to the pinching at school however. First because I attended a parochial school where every one dressed in navy blue plaid uniforms and secondly because it caught it gave the Nuns another excuse to smack knuckles with their rulers, and that was worst then the pinch by far.

    But, I certainly got my share away from school. I enjoyed your walk down memory lane. And, thank you for taking my green stroll with me as well.

    ReplyDelete
  84. haha Great finding and wearing green on St. Patrick day is awesome...

    ReplyDelete
  85. The pinching was not fun.....only if you were the pincher...ha

    love the picture...very pretty!

    ReplyDelete
  86. the Irish bloodline is quite strong no matter how far removed one may be. The Irish ARE a hardy, lovable and yet irritating bunch of peeps! The DNA is inescapable! That's a good thing!

    ReplyDelete
  87. oh...dang, i forgot to mention that I did not know where that pinching thing came from, either. thanks for the tidbit!!

    ReplyDelete
  88. I've had many people ask me over the years if I had Irish blood and I always said no. Now I can say yes!

    Hated those pinches, too! Do they still do that in grade school?

    ReplyDelete
  89. My maternal grandmother, who's grandfather was an Irish immigrant,passed on to me a little shamrock brooch. She wore it with pride on St.Patrick's Day, and I do now as well.There are still parts of Australia that celebrate with a St. Patrick's Day march,my state, South Australia is one of them. Better we remain ignorant about the pinching though- a march is just too much temptation!

    ReplyDelete
  90. I'm already scanning my kids' wardrobes for St. Patrick's day clothes. I think we're pretty much set on some green shirts & socks & hair bows. Wouldn't want any pinches going on!!

    ReplyDelete
  91. Being the contrarian that I've always been, I insisted on wearing orange to school on St. Pat's Day. Although I've traced several of my lines back to England, I've never found an Irish link.

    ReplyDelete
  92. i had no idea about this tradition 0 ha! those leprachauns!

    i wonder if thats related at all to a pinch and a punch for the first of the month

    ReplyDelete
  93. Agree fully with you Willow. For me there's no better way to create a sense of belonging than if the story is dramatic. Mine is all about French conmen and Italian peasants, death and survival. Of course the Irish story of the 1860s is also pretty dramatic.
    I look forward to learning more about yours.

    ReplyDelete

Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)