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March 1999

A Few of My Favorite Greens: A tribute to the Irish community's favorite hue

Sentimental memories of the color green

St. Patrick’s day, the day when “everyone is Irish,” is an infectious blend of celebrating, too-ra-loo-ra-looring, and painting the town green. When I was a kid, my mother carefully laid out my clothes for school on the seventeenth of March – dark green stretch pants, kelly green sweater, and if I promised to treat it with care, a tiny gold and green- enameled shamrock pin her grandmother had given her. My mom is half Irish, but her excitement over the holiday makes her, as she puts it, “as Irish as Paddy’s pig.” Every year my brother and I wore green, and every year we got green frosted cupcakes for dessert. I still wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m deciding whether the bakery counter at Stop & Shop would air mail me some of those cupcakes. Green has a lot going for it. Sure, it may be the color of envy, money, inexperience, immaturity, mold, the least-loved Lifesaver™ flavor, lima beans, Martians, armies, personal checks, artificially flavored pistachio ice cream, carnations, nausea, and the preppy movement, but the list of its more positive roles is also lengthy. Green is the color of grass, trees, plants, and seas. Birds, fish, the best M&M, ginger-ale cans, Greenpeace, the Green party, my favorite flavor of gummi bear, pea soup, key-lime pie, spearmint chewing gum, artichokes, avocados, glow-in-the-dark Frisbees, the luckiest color of the Citroën “Ente,” old Coca-Cola bottles, Kermit the Frog, cats’ eyes, mallard-ducks’ heads, Pedigree pencil erasers, garden hoses, berry containers, the tips of just-ripe bananas, the scent of a lightly floral perfume, bell peppers, nautical markers, Magic Markers, and many shades of Crayola crayons are all lucky enough to be green. There are countless songs that incorporate our friend green: “Greensleeves”, “The Green, Green, Grass of Home”, and “Green Grass and High Tides” among them. Popular culture loves green, too. It could have been “Mr. Bluejeans,” but no, Captain Kangaroo’s best friend was, you guessed it, “Mr. Greenjeans.” “Green Acres” and “The Green Hornet” take the hue with them into television history, and the classic board game “Clue” boasts a character named Mr. Green. The Jolly Green Giant became a fixture on the freezer of every housewife in America in the sixties. McDonald’s still serves the cool and minty Shamrock shake every March. The motion picture industry taught us that unripe vegetables are actually a tasty treat with the release of Fried Green Tomatoes. Gospel singer Al Green, “Bonanza” star Lorne Green, and comedian Sheckie Green wear the color year ’round. Green means “go” at stop lights. Pick up any world atlas and find green hailed all over the thing. (Greenland is, of course, the ultimate compliment to our beloved color.) Green-garbed babies signify an end to our need to identify the gender of our young through the use of color. Golf greens, tennis greens, and bowling greens host sports’ créme-de-la-créme (not créme de menthe, another fine green.) If you have a green thumb you’re a great gardener, if you drink green tea you won’t get the jitters, and the more green tarnish on an antique bronze, the better. Green comes in shades with natural names – sea green, pine green, olive, forest, melon, and lime – and names used by kitchen appliance firms – chartreuse, teal, emerald, and jungle. Green mixed with blue makes turquoise, blue mixed with green makes blue-green, and green Jelly Belly™ jelly beans mixed with red ones make apple-pie flavor. The Irish adopted green as the St. Patrick’s Day color because of shamrocks, the Emerald Isles, the green in their flag, and an irresistable urge to put green food-coloring in beer. Green is the cabbage that goes with their corned beef, the hat on a Leprechaun, the peas in Shepherd’s pie, and often the color of those “smilin’ eyes.” St. Patrick was, in fact, a born Scotsman, who later got the calling to become a priest while a slave in Ireland. He actually lived the bulk of his life in France. However, I, only one-fifth of Paddy’s pig, am happy to say that the tradition is not to eat poor little green frogs’ legs, but green-frosted cupcakes instead.

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