Richmond Proper: On the St. Patrick’s Day pinch

Whether you just like celebrating any holiday that comes down the pike, or you truly want to show some Irish pride, there are plenty of good reasons for wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. However the perceived right to pinch people who are not wearing green has been taken a little too far.

Whether you just like celebrating any holiday that comes down the pike, or you truly want to show some Irish pride, there are plenty of good reasons for wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day.  Nationality really makes no difference — St. Patrick himself was British — and lots of folks with no known Irish heritage like to participate in the festivities.  But one of those “festivities” has morphed into the perceived right to pinch people who are not wearing green, and Richmond Proper thinks this liberty has been taken a little too far.

The origins of this practice are a bit hazy.  There seems to be some debate over whether it started with a few good-natured tales of mischievous leprechauns, or whether it’s a defiant reference to the days when British rule was new in Ireland and wearing green could get you killed.  Another theory is that pinching on St. Patrick’s Day was invented by schoolchildren as just another excuse to terrorize each other.

The general rule here is to just not pinch other human beings, which seems like it would be a straightforward and agreed-upon tenet of civilization.  Regardless of what day it is, the rule of Keeping One’s Hands to Oneself still applies.  We’ve talked about the sacredness of personal space before, and it’s something that really resonates in our culture.  Still, the rules of etiquette are often bent on purpose for holidays, and these temporary exceptions to the rules are what makes those days special.  In case this sort of half-leniency confuses anyone, let’s go over some examples in this the:

Pinch, if you dare:

Your significant other and your children, close family members, fellow members of your 3rd grade class, and very close friends (By “very close,” I don’t mean “friends who’ve accepted your Facebook friend request and totally commented on your status, like, twice.”  I mean “friends who know all your mannerisms by heart and can tell what you’re thinking by just glancing at you”).

Do NOT pinch:

Coworkers, acquaintances, people standing in line with you at the grocery store, random people on the street, and other peoples’ children.

It’s a bizarre concept, deciding whether to pinch others.  One I never anticipated exploring in this column.  But I’m glad we had this talk, guys.

And for those of you really gearing up for the more alcoholic part of St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to take a little refresher course on how not to be THAT GUY at the party.

Have an etiquette question and need some advice?  Email tess@rvanews.com.

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Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her husband, Dan, and their two cats.

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