For St. Patrick’s Day, How Green is My Money?

There’s a good chance if I say the word “green” your mind might wander to thoughts of money. The color of our money is so iconic that it has become synonymous with stacks of cash. I thought that today we might have a little fun and ponder the color green since it’s fast approaching St. Patrick’s Day 2018, March 17th, a day when green is at the forefront no matter what your ethnic background!

For St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd have some fun looking at why money is green, and checking out the color green throughout our culture.

“Greenback” Dollars

The color green has been used in federal currency dating back to 1861 and the Civil War. Before then, the Continental Congress had experimented with issuing notes called “continentals” to fund the Revolutionary War, but they were printed at such a high volume that they quickly lost their value. These new green notes were printed for a similar reason, but this time it was the Union side of the Civil War that needed financing.

In order to prevent these new bills from being counterfeited, their back sides were printed with green ink said to be made from palm juice (the cameras of the era used for counterfeiting could only photograph in black-and-white not color). This earned them the nickname “greenbacks” and made the U.S. dollar instantly recognizable.

In 1929, the government began instituting standard shapes and designs for currency in order to cut manufacturing costs, but they stuck with the classic green hue.

The Wearing o’ the Green

Believe it or not, blue not green was the color associated with St. Patrick long ago. Green, the color now associated with Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day, gained in popularity through the phrase “the wearing o’ the green” meaning to wear a shamrock on one’s clothing. In Ireland, to do so was seen as a sign of Irish pride or loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith. St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. The wearing of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs became a feature of the saint’s holiday. The change to Ireland’s association with green rather than blue is believed to have begun around the 1750’s.

In America, St. Patrick’s Day became a day of wearing green because many of the new immigrants were Catholic. In the 1760’s, the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was started in NYC and the rest is literally history. Now be honest, you’ve worn the green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day even if you aren’t of the Irish brood, haven’t you?

The “50 Shades” of Green

St. Patty’s day today sometimes seems to mean a lot of green beer or perhaps a shamrock shake over at Mickey D’s. But truthfully, it’s really amazing how many times the word “green” pops up in our culture. It’s even more common than red, white, and blue! Alright, there isn’t any scientific evidence to support that but I’m sticking with that claim with my literary license here.

There’s “green” with envy, it’s not easy being “green”, “green thumbs” and that old “green-eyed monster” too. In fact, there are scores of movies, songs, poems, and books that have “green” in the title.

Books and Movies

Books include, “How Green Was My Valley”, “The Green Mile”, “Anne of Green Gables” and the iconic Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham”! Of course, several of those have been made into classic movies too.

Movies have a way of bringing to life the stories that many of us just wouldn’t ever sit down and spend hours reading, either because we don’t have the time or we simply don’t even know in today’s world how invigorating a good book can be. I’m not knocking movies or books, in fact I love them both and of course I use the library here in town as a great go-to source for my “free” entertainment!

Speaking of “green” movies, here’s a short list of 5 of my favorites. How do they stack up against your top ones?

5. “Anne of Green Gables”

Anne of Green Gables is a film based upon the novel of the same name by Lucy Maud Montgomery. If you loved “Little Women”, this movie is for you. This modest film became a surprise hit in 1934, one of four top grossing films RKO made that year. It runs 78 minutes and is not rated.

4. “Soylent Green”

This 1973 science-fiction film from Warner Bros. stars Charlton Heston and is so on point. The film takes place in the future where a massive amount of overcrowding and population growth has led to food shortages. The Soylent Corporation offers a new product called Soylent Green, a nutritious wafer that comes with excellent nutritional benefits along with a great taste. It’s a mystery and science fiction thriller. It runs 1 hour, 37 minutes and is rated PG.

3. “The Green Mile”

The Green Mile tells about the worst of people and the best of God’s intent. This movie is based on several stories by Steven King. Tom Hanks stars in this surprisingly touching movie. It’s a story of a prison guard during the 1930’s who is the leader of the crew on death row known as the Green Mile. A 1999 fantasy-crime drama, it runs 3 hours 8 minutes and is rated R.

2. “Green Card”

Green Card is a 1990 romantic comedy film written, produced, and directed by Peter Weir and starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. It is the story of an American woman who enters into a marriage of convenience with a Frenchman so he can obtain a green card and remain in the United States. Depardieu won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and the film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It runs 107 minutes and is rated PG-13.

1. “Fried Green Tomatoes”

Fried Green Tomatoes is about two Depression-era women from Alabama and their close friendship. The story revolves around the history of the Whistle Stop Cafe. Stars are Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jessica Tandy. From 1991, it runs 126 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Although it doesn’t have green in the title, I can’t think of St. Patrick’s Day and fail to mention one of my favorite movies based in Ireland, “The Quiet Man”. This 1952 romantic comedy-drama stars John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Even if you are not a John Wayne fan, you will find this film delightfully different from his usual fare.

Music, Music, Music

There are literally hundreds of songs with the color green in the title (and even more if you count things like clover) so it’s a little tough to come up with a list of just a few that I personally love. The English folk song “Greensleeves” has been recorded by everyone from The Smothers Brothers to Leonard Cohen who reworked the classical tunes into his song “Leaving Green Sleeves”. Other versions are from the likes of Jeff Beck, Marianne Faithfull, Al Di Meola, John Coltrane, Jethro Tull, The Scorpions, Neil Young, Vanessa Carlton, and Sarah McLachlan. Since I am writing this, why not give you my top 5 personal faves (of course they’re from the greatest era of music ever…my teen years!).

5. Green River – Credence Clearwater Revival – 1969 #3 Billboard

4. Green Onions – Booker T and the MGs – 1962 #2 Billboard

3. Green, Green Grass of Home – Tom Jones – 1967 #11 Billboard

2. Green Tambourine – The Lemon Pipers – 1968 #1 Billboard

1. (tie) Green, Green – The New Christy Minstrels – 1963 #20 Billboard and Greenback Dollar – The Kingston Trio – 1963 #18 Billboard

Honorable Mention: Little Green Apples – O.C. Smith – 1968 #2 Billboard

Just for Fun – St. Patrick’s Day Facts

☘️ 12% of all Americans are of Irish heritage.

☘️ 80 million people around the world are at least part Irish.

☘️ St. Patrick was not Irish. He was from Wales.

☘️ Every year the Chicago River is dyed green by Local 119 of the Plumbers Union. It lasts about 5 hours!

☘️ Each year the Irish give a gift of “Kerry” grown shamrocks to the U.S. President at the White House.

☘️ Beer sales double on St. Patrick’s Day around the world! (millions and millions of pints are consumed)

☘️ The shortest parade is held in Arkansas on Bridge St. and is just 98 feet long!

☘️ St. Patrick is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland but since the Ice Age, Ireland has never had any snakes.

☘️ People confuse shamrocks and four-leaf clovers. Four-leaf clovers are deemed lucky because they are harder to find. Four-leaf clovers have four leaves not three like shamrocks and have no religious background like the shamrock does.

☘️ Those making corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day should find ample supplies in grocery stores. U.S. farmers produce over 40 billion pounds of beef each year and over and 2.2 billion pounds of cabbage too.

☘️ Irish-named places you could visit around the USA include six towns named after the shamrock, the emblem of Ireland (in Oklahoma, Texas [two], Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska).

☘️ There are also 16 places named after Dublin, the capital of Ireland. The most populous are in California and Ohio. Even more whimsical Irish-themed towns include Emerald Isle, North Carolina, and the township of Irishtown, Illinois. Townships named Clover exist in South Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Minnesota is also home to Cloverleaf.

Well that’s my take on St. Patrick’s Day. While there’s not much of a chance that this post will earn you or save you any money, there’s always the chance that you can win a bar bet on one or two of the fun facts here. Ok, a bit of a stretch but I have to find some weird way to justify it!

I hope you have a chance to celebrate in a fun, safe way. What are your plans to relax and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day 2018?


  1. Thanks for sharing some St. Patrick’s facts and stats Gary. We’ll keep it low key with a homecooked corn beef meal and listen to our favorite Irish band, U2. Both my wife and I have Irish roots, she more than me. St.Patrick’s Day is one of her favorite holidays. Enjoy!

  2. I’ve got another song that’s a favorite. “It’s Not Easy Being Green” which is Kermit the Frog’s song. But it’s a pretty ballad.

    I almost forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day but then I went in to a dollar store and all the staff were wearing green hats.

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