For the most part, St. Patrick’s Day traditions are pretty fun. We love layering green on green, grabbing drinks with our pals, and heading out to the local St. Patrick’s Day parade. But why do we get pinched on St. Patrick’s Day? That’s the one tradition we just can’t seem to wrap our heads around — but there’s actually a reason why it exists.
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the act of pinching is related to the tradition of wearing green. Donning green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is a tradition that dates back to the 17th century. Before then, blue was often worn to commemorate the death of St. Patrick. But celebrants switched to green to align with the colors of the Irish flag and flags of Irish revolutionary groups. Green is also correlated with Ireland’s nickname, “The Emerald Isle,” which pertains to Ireland’s lush green landscape.
Right, so, back to the pinching. St. Paddy’s Day pinching is actually an American tradition (surprise, surprise).
According to an early 18th-century American legend, those wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day were supposedly “invisible” to leprechauns. Leprechauns were thought to be little fairy-like creatures who would mischievously pinch anyone in sight (ahem, those not wearing green).
St. Patrick’s Day celebrants often took pinching into their own hands, doing so to remind to those not wearing green that leprechauns were out and about. So even if you weren’t in sight of a leprechaun, therefore safe from being pinched, you were probably still going to get pinched by your friend. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Nowadays, even if you are wearing green, you might still get pinched on St. Patrick’s Day. The tradition is so woven into the holiday that St. Paddy’s Day pinching runs rampant on March 17th. Prepare yourself, beware, and be on the lookout for pinching fingers in your proximity.
In fact, maybe we should all just keep our pinchers to ourselves.