Oh the Shamrock

By Kathi Ferguson
 
They appear everywhere around St. Patrick’s Day. Those cute little three petal green plants known as shamrocks, or “little clovers”, have been a national symbol of Ireland for centuries. But what else do we know— or don’t know about them? 
 
Teaching about the Holy Trinity
St. Patrick used the abundant shamrock in the 5th century to explain the holy trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in his efforts to convert Irish people to Christianity. Like the shamrock and its three separate leaves branching from on single stem, the parts of the Holy Trinity are each separate entities also connected together.
 
Wearin’ o’ the Green
In the 19th century, the shamrock became a symbol of rebellion of the Irish people against the English. Openly displaying this three-leaf clover was made illegal and punishable by death. It was this period that gave rise to the phrase “the wearin’ o’ the green”. 
 
Drowning the Shamrock
Another custom relating to this little clover is ‘drowning the shamrock’, not to be equated to drinking excessively, but to a drinking habit. On St Patrick’s Day, a shamrock leaf is dipped into the last pint of the night before the drink, now known as ‘Patrick’s pot’ is swallowed whole. ‘My Patrick’s Pot on you’ soon became a common salutation.
 
The Shamrock is not the Official Symbol of Ireland
It’s the Irish harp! 

Shamrock or Four-leafed Clover?
Occasionally, a fourth leaflet will appear on the shamrock, making it a “four-leaf clover,” claiming to bring good luck to the person who discovers it. But these plants are not quite the same thing. Although they are both clover, they are different because of the number of leaves and the associated meanings that are given to the plants based on this. The four-leaf version is rare and much harder to find. In fact, there are also five-leaf clovers and more which are also rare.
 
Shamrocks for the President
In 1952, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States sent a small box of shamrocks to President Harry Truman, unknowingly creating a tradition that is still carried out years later. Every St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s Prime Minister presents a special Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrocks to the President of the United State at the White House.
 
Favorite Irish Saying
“May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks. May your heart be as light as a song. May each day bring you bright, happy hours. That stay with you all the year long.”