Hello Fellow Readers, While shopping in a nearby grocery, I came upon a display of clover with cute little shamrock decorations on top of each pot. It occurred to me, as I admired them, I didn’t know the history and significance of St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll bet that may be true of some of you.
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 which seem to jump out at me amongst a field of the little cuties. For every ten thousand three-leaf clovers, there is one four-leaf clover it’s commonly said. 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 on May 10th, 2009, holds the record. Wowzah!
The legend of clover and 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, the priest of a Christian church there, but Patrick did not believe in God.
At age sixteen, he was captured and enslaved as a shepherd in Gaelic Ireland. During his six years of captivity, Patrick found God and became a believer. Perhaps the meditative time being 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 with 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 indeed 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.
Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)