Irish Shamrock History

The Irish shamrock has a long history. It has been symbolic of different things through the ages, and had many different meanings attached. On St. Patrick's Day, many can be seen wearing a shamrock charm to show support for Ireland and celebrate Irish pride, even if they are not Irish.

The Irish Shamrock Plant
An Ireland shamrock is a three-leafed clover that grows in the summer and is native to Ireland. The species is Trifolium repens, and it's actually a variety of weed. Shamrocks grow from bulbs and may bloom with white flowers around St. Patrick's Day. If you own a shamrock plant, it's important to cut it back and keep it in a cool, dark place a couple of times a year so that it can rest. Shamrocks are dormant in Ireland during the winter, and they won't grow throughout the year when they're kept as houseplants.

Religious Connotations
The Druids of Ireland and the Christian faith both have symbolism attached to the number three. In the Celtic faith, three was a spiritual number that indicated the work of the gods and reflected the balance in nature. Ancient Celts also revered the shamrock as a food source for livestock.

During the fifth century, St. Patrick used the Irish shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity. One leaf represented the Father, one the Son and one the Holy Ghost. By drawing on the Irish love for the shamrock, St. Patrick was able to convert many pagan Celts into Christians.

Political Rebellion
During the 19th century, a wave of government-led religious prosecution against Catholics began in Ireland. The Irish shamrock became a symbol of the Catholic underground because of its strong association with St. Patrick. Anyone caught wearing a shamrock charm could face a punishment as severe as hanging.  

Good Luck
Sometimes, a fourth leaf will grow on a shamrock. This variation is called a four-leaf clover. Because if its rarity, it is said to bring good luck to the finder, a tradition that dates back to the Celtic people. Many kids and adults alike have a good time hunting through patches of shamrocks to find the lucky four-leaf clover hidden within.

No longer a symbol of rebellion, the Irish shamrock and four-leaf clover are fun, happy symbols of Irish pride and good luck. 

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Depending on the era, the meaning of the shamrock could be a symbol of Ireland, Catholicism or an underground political movement.

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