Americans have been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day since the 1850′s. But if you’re knowledge of Irish history only goes as deep as a mug of green beer you might be surprised to learn that historically Saint Patrick blue was the color most closely associated with this Irish saint not green.


St. Patrick's Blue Shamrock

Each year on March 17th those of us that are Irish, of Irish descent and those that want to be (at least for one day a year) it’s ‘the wearing of the green' in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. But it is only in modern times that green has become the color of the day. For hundreds of years it was Saint Patrick blue, not green.

St. Patrick's Blue Portrait

How St. Patrick Became Associated With Green

A green shamrock was a symbol that St. Patrick had used to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish and ‘the wearing of the green’ meant to wear a shamrock to display your faith.

It is widely believed that beginning in the mid-1700’s people mistook the phrase to mean wearing green garments and we all know the rest of the story…the wearing of green has become ubiquitous with St. Patrick’s Day.

If St. Patrick's #color was blue why do we celebrate with green?

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Saint Patrick Blue And Presidential Blue Represent Ireland

In fact green has become so strongly attached not just to this holiday but to Ireland many believe that it is the ‘official’ color of the country. While there is no official color two hues of blue, Saint Patrick Blue and Presidential Blue are widely used by the Government of Ireland.

Saint Patrick Blue dates from the 1780s, when it was adopted as the colour of the Anglo-Irish Order of St. Patrick. Presidential Blue is darker than Saint Patrick Blue and both can be seen the football (soccer) uniforms of Dublin County and the liveries of Aer Lingus. Presidential Blue appears in the Irish Crest and Saint Patrick Blue can be seen behind the gold bardic harp on on the ancient Irish flag.

So while I’ll still be ‘wearing the green’ on St. Patrick's Day my heart will be ‘true blue’ all the way down to my Irish roots.

P.S. I can't help but wonder if the green really came about when the first creative pub owner tried to make blue beer. Blue food color + yellow beer…oops, green beer not blue! Hmm, how can we spin this so all of that good beer doesn't go to waste?

Content and graphics © Kate Smith LLC
Lead photo credit Thoom /, other images licensed from 

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Kate Smith
Kate Smith is an optimistic, expressive, artist, designer, writer and color fanatic. With her warm and witty style, Kate teaches you to clearly see, understand and be inspired by color. Then she guides you step-by-step to develop your own unique color sense-ability and achieve results you never dreamed possible.
  • Alacoque Arbetman says:

    St Patrick’s blue was our school uniform, Dublin 1950’s.
    And…The wearing of the green…means putting a sprig of Shamrock on our lapels.
    The ‘ green ‘ everything else is an American concept.

  • keely says:

    i would like to know why it was going to help when irish is green and not blue

  • Diana Tremblay says:

    Those blue/ green plaid leggings of mine will do nicely!!

  • Happy Irish on the st.padrick day strick day to you love be a Green Day morning Times-Picayune have a nice day

  • John conley says:

    Did Saint Patrick have African dissent and in his blood

    • Kate Smith says:

      I don’t know the answer but if you go back far enough aren’t we all part African? Why do you ask?

      • Brad says:

        The concept of Africa or continents didn’t exist. It was s common land, so no.

        • Kate Smith says:

          Brad, it sounds like you know more about this than I do. I’ll stick to my expertise in using colors. 🙂

  • Layla says:

    I forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day and I forgot to put on green but I’m wearing blue but I did put on some green later

  • Robert says:

    It was nice learning about the colors green and blue for St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t know about the blue but now I have both colors in my plan for that day. Thank you

    • Kate Smith says:

      Thanks! Happy St. Patty’s Day, Robert!

  • Rachel Anderson says:

    Why have you got a four-leafed clover at the top of the page? That has absolutely nothing to do with Ireland or St Patrick.

    • Kate Smith says:

      A Four Leaf Clover is actually an mutation of the shamrock (three-leaf clover), it can only happen in approximately 1 in 10,000 shamrocks. According to Irish legend, St. Patrick used the Shamrock’s three leaves to teach the pagans about Christianity. It symbolized the Holy Trinity with each leaf representing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. When it’s found with the additional fourth leaf represents God’s Grace.

    • Layla says:

      Maybe it it’s because clovers or shamrocks grow around this time

      • Hinton Patrick says:

        Shamrocks have three leaves the fourth one is for luck

  • agneta says:

    Yes yes yes, your blog ….. it’s amazing and soooo inspiring.

    Nice to find you!

    • Kate Smith says:

      Thank you, Agneta. I’m glad you found your way here, too!

  • Dulcita Love says:

    Fascinating history about St. Patrick’s Day as it relates to color.

  • April says:

    I have spent a very raucous St. Paddy’s Day in both Dublin and Galway…and let me say they make NY’s celebrations PALE by comparison. The Irish certainly do celebrate the holiday wildly, much the same as we do. The fact that they’re wearing green might be our doing, but a freckled fair haired Irish boy certainly looks good in green (and probably blue too) ! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

  • Donna Frasca says:

    I’m good to go! I couldn’t make up my mind which color shirt to wear today so I have both a blue and a green shirt on. It’s all about the layers of color. Cheers!

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