The shamrock plant is recognised the world over as the badge of Ireland. It is revered by Irish people all over the world, is the logo of the Irish Tourist Board, Failte Ireland, and you can find the emblem on everything from the tail fin of the national airline, Aer Lingus to the lampposts of Dublin.
The real, living shamrock is traditionally worn on the lapel every St Patrick’s Day. The plants are picked in the fields, shared between family members who proudly attach bushy sprigs to their clothing.
It was the Celtic druids who started the shamrock on its path to Irish glory! They believed the number 3 to be a perfect number and, as such, to have inherent mystical powers. No one is quite sure why they believed this but it is possible the number signified past, present and future, or sky, earth and underground.
Whatever the reason, it is no wonder the humble shamrock plant, with its three leaves, was revered. St Patrick, when he set out to convert the Celtic inhabitants of Ireland, would have been fully aware of their predilection for the number three and, according to legend, he used the plant to illustrate the Christian concept of the Trinity to show how one God divided into three: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Whether or not the story of St Patrick using the shamrock plant in his teachings is true doesn’t really matter because by the time it was reported as truth, we Irish had already chosen it as our symbol. It appears on medieval tombs and on old coins, and a written reference dating from 1681 describes it as a badge worn on the lapel on St Patrick’s Day.
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