In our series “Battlefield Banners: Flags of the American Civil War” we’ve been exploring aspects of flag creation and the stories behind regimental flags. Today’s flag combines heraldic traditions from European heritage into an American setting. Carried by Irish immigrants, this flag made a statement of national origin, even as the soldiers fought for their adopted country.
Miss Stephanie blogs at Stephanie’s Blog where she shares her thoughts about happenings in life, insightful musings, and interesting facts about holidays. She’s written a book for single girls and is the CEO of Epiphany Creative Services, specializing in platform building in the world of social media.
I will never forget the first time he told me. We had gone into the Irish Pub that was in the hotel where we staying. As we had Irish heritage, we thought it might be fun to try out some food on the menu that we’d not yet experienced. I don’t recall even one item we ate that day, but I do remember looking out over the balcony at all the Irish flags beautifully mounted on the walls. That’s when he told me.
“We were orange, you know…and we came from County Cork.”
I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Here we were, with true Irish roots, in an Irish place, eating Irish food, and he was talking about a color that definitely didn’t fit the mood or the environment. However, he would soon divulge the meaning behind the statement.
It’s not uncommon to see people hold dear to the colors of their favorite sports team or school or to proudly wear the colors in their country’s flag. Oddly, my grandfather never had a “color” or a team that he touted, so this intrigued me all the more. It was then that he pointed to the Irish standard nearest us. I’d never even noticed it before. There it was in all it’s glory – the large orange stripe in the Irish flag. But, what was the significance?
When we think of St. Patrick’s Day, we think green. We wear green. We eat green things, we decorate everything with green. Also, at some point in time, we will hear the familiar reference “Irish Catholics.” But have you ever heard someone mention “Irish Protestants”? I know I hadn’t.
That was when Gramps (as I called him) explained that green was the color used by the Irish Catholics and that Orange was the color held by the Protestants. I’d never heard him tell that story in my life. And he was 94 at the time.
One of my dearest friends is Catholic. She loves to tease me that she’ll be in green from head to toe this week. She reminds me that I’d better not flash any orange her way. We both get a nice chuckle, but, deep down, I am so pleased to see how far we’ve come. It amazes me, that had we grown up in a different land and in a different time, our banter would not be so light or enjoyable.
As we sat at the Irish Pub in my neighborhood this evening, celebrating the holiday a bit early, my friend out-of-the-blue said, “I have to find something Orange this week.” I laughed. I’d forgotten that I’d shared the story with her. (And I probably do each March!) She doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seems to be re-inventing St. Patrick’s Day in her corner of the world.
So, just as my grandfather used to remind me about that bit of history, without fail, each and every St. Patrick’s Day, I will most likely continue carrying on that same tradition. In his honor, of course. It’s a sweet memory. Interestingly, I always knew he wasn’t trying to make a point or impress me. He was simply proud that he knew something about our heritage and he was pleased to pass that knowledge along to me.
Wishing you and yours a jolly St. Patrick’s Day!
Thanks again, Miss Stephanie, for the lovely blog post! ~Miss Sarah
P.S. Miss Stephanie and I would love to hear your comments on her story. And, just for fun, let us know: are you wearing Orange or Green for St. Patrick’s Day?