Hello Fellow Readers, While shopping in a nearby grocery, I came upon cute little shamrocks on display for Saint Patrick’s Day, inspiring learning the legend of shamrocks and the history of St. Patrick’s Day.
I love the green theme, of course. And, the association to clover, which, you may recall from a previous column, is a favorable lawn alternative. Trifolium repens is drought tolerant, a nitrogen fixer that requires little or no mowing that pollinators adore.
The odds of four-leaf-clover
Then there’s the folklore of good luck when you find four-leaf clovers that jump out at me amongst a field of the little cuties. They say there is one four-leaf clover for every ten thousand three-leaf clovers. So, finding one is indeed lucky – The luck of the Irish, as the saying goes. There are rare finds of five, six, or even more leaves. According to Guinness World Records, a clover stem with 56 leaves found in Japan holds the record on May 10th, 2009. Wowzah!
The legend of clover and the history of Saint Patrick
As the legend goes, Saint Patrick used the heart-shaped leaves of clovers, also called shamrocks, to symbolize the Holy Trinity— the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The shamrock remains the national flower of Ireland.
Patrick was born into a wealthy family of Roman Britain in the fourth century. His father was a deacon, and his grandfather, was the priest of a Christian church there, but Patrick did not believe in God.
He was captured and enslaved as a shepherd in Gaelic Ireland at sixteen years old. During his six years of captivity, Patrick found God and became a believer. Perhaps the meditative time amongst the miracles in nature and tending to animals was a source of finding his spiritual self. Though I read in the Declaration, presumably written by Patrick, that God told him to escape and find the ship that will be waiting for him on the coast to take him home.
Upon his return to his homeland, Patrick became a priest. Then, he went back to Ireland in about 432 and spent many years converting others to Christianity, creating monasteries, churches, and schools. Saint Patrick died on March 17th, 461. Saint Patrick’s Day, also March 17th, became a day of religious services and feasts in celebrations of his life.
History of St. Patrick’s Day
Of course, it’s a nonspiritual holiday to most with parades and toasts of green beer—even green bagels. Cities with high concentrations of folks of Irish descent have the most extravagant celebrations. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston was in 1737. In New York City, it was 1762. Chicago paints its river green on St. Patty’s day and has since 1962.
There is something happy about the green theme, especially as winter comes to a gloomy close, which recalls the lyrics of When Irish Eyes are Smiling –
“Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring. In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.” Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Story updated 3/17/22
Click through to the previous column on Clover Lawn Alternative, also featured in Episode 2 of the Podcast :^) –