The shamrock is a treasured symbol of Ireland. Over the coming days shamrocks will be decorated, baked, worn, painted, displayed and cherished by Irish and non-Irish alike.
Today, in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, I thought we might explore the meaning and significance of Irish shamrock. On St. Patrick’s Day Irish people wear fresh shamrock on their coat lapels, as a sign of honor and respect for our most beloved saint.
Aer Lingus, the Irish airline, proudly displays a shamrock on the tail of all its airplanes. Over the next few days the airline will deliver fresh homegrown shamrock to Irish embassies in many countries worldwide.
Shamrock is a type of clover, but the leaves of an Irish shamrock plant are far smaller than a typical American clover. It grows in bunches, rather than the typical single stem and leaf growth pattern of a clover.
The literal meaning of the Irish word “seamrog” is “summer plant”. Shamrocks thrive in Irish fields throughout spring and summer and are attributed with mystical power. When a storm is approaching shamrocks supposedly point skywards, standing tall as a warning sign.
Only a shamrock can undo the magical spell of a leprechaun.
The clover pictured above is far bigger than a typical Irish shamrock.
St. Patrick’s use of a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to pagan Irish men and women is probably the most famous legend of all shamrock tales. He used the tri-part leaf as a symbol of Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing both separately and as one.
Four-leafed clovers are considered to be very lucky due to their rarity. Over time the term the luck of the Irish has become intertwined with the legend of four-leafed clovers, resulting in the misuse of a four-leafed clover as a symbol of Ireland. This artistic interpretation has grown acceptable in America, but to a true Irish man only the three-leafed shamrock should ever be used.
This year President Obama’s reelection committee produced St. Patrick’s Day merchandise, but with one big gaffe. A four-leafed clover was emblazoned on T-Shirts instead of a shamrock. This oversight has been corrected, probably after many irate phone calls from Irish people all over the world. Obama’s team quickly responded and did not press their luck.
“Never iron a four-leaf clover,
because you don’t want to press your luck.”
Although the harp is the official symbol of Ireland, the shamrock is probably the most widely used emblem. Shamrock cookies will be baked by the dozen in America this week. Luckily it is a perfect cookie cutter shape.
Children will have fun decorating using forty shades of my homeland green.
Shamrock shapes are perfect for those with an artistic flair to express their inner Celtic creativity.
I encourage everyone to find their inner shamrock and express their love of all things Irish.
Wear shamrocks with pride, a smile on your face and love and laughter in your heart.
“May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.”
And always remember every shamrock does not have to be green. Red, white and blue shamrocks look ever so beautiful too.
For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way –
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom