The Shamrock and St. Patrick

The Shamrock, a word derived from the Irish "Seamrog", which itself developed as a diminutive form of the "Seamair", the Irish word for clover, is a three-leaf clover that grows abundantly across the hillsides of Ireland. The Shamrock was considered

Shamrocks
sacred by the Celts, who appropriated its power into charms used to ward off witches, banshees, and wicked fairies. But its real importance to the Irish, and its ultimate position as a symbol of St. Patrick's Day, traces back to St. Patrick himself and his teachings of Christianity.

In explaining the tenants of Christianity to the Celts, St. Patrick related the three leaves of the Shamrock to the holy trinity. This was such a successful analogy that the Shamrock as a symbol of the trinity is still recognized today.

When England took control of Ireland in the sixteenth century, the Irish became subjugated to British rule in every aspect of their lives, including religion. Irish citizens, proud of their heritage, began the practice of pinning Shamrocks to their apparel, as
Shamrock
a statement of pride and loyalty to Ireland and their own religious practices. This practice was the beginning of the Irish tradition of the "Wearing of the Green". Around 1798 and the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the wearing of a Shamrock in the "Caubeen", or "Irish Beret", was a symbol of support for the Rebellion, and today, the wearing of a Shamrock, or if none is available, a facsimile green ribbon, is a St. Patrick's Day essential.

In the very early twentieth century, the Shamrock and the entire celebration of St. Patrick's Day underwent a symbolic change, even documented in articles in the Irish Times. After decades of animosity between the citizens of Ireland and those of the United Kingdom, non-Irish, including British, Scottish, and Welsh, began appropriating the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, and with it the wearing of the Shamrock. St. Patrick's Day was becoming a universally celebrated event, while previously to the British, St. Patrick's Day and the Shamrock represented differences in culture, religious observances, and even sedition, they came to represent a commonality and even friendship among peoples.


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