By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz
For centuries, the shamrock has been surrounded by Irish legend and lore. Often the green three-leaf plant is confused with the lucky four-leaf clover. Other traditional Irish icons are closely associated with the shamrock. The Emerald Isle’s mischievous leprechauns, pots of gold, and rainbows have a place in Ireland’s history, but the shamrock has a fascinating legacy all its own.
Early pre-Christian Irish history depicts the shamrock connected with pagan ceremonies, fire rites and spring festivals honoring the gods and goddesses of plant life. During this time, ashes from burned branches and other green foliage, including moss, grass and shamrocks were spread across pastures and fields. Farmers hoped this treatment would make soil more fertile for grazing livestock and the coming season’s crops.
Later accounts claim St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, used the shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity, because of its three leaves on a single stem. Over time, the Irish embraced the plant, holding it dear in their hearts.
Today, shamrocks are regarded as the national plant of Ireland for their simple, fresh beauty displayed amid a natural background of castles, rugged mountain terrains, the grey stone of old walls, and rustic peat cottages, where they reign supreme as the most identifiable symbol of the country.
However, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, no matter what race, nationality or creed, we all become Irish for a day. Enjoy this whimsical transformation by wearing green clothing, drinking green beer and eating corned beef and cabbage or giving a shamrock plant to a friend. Or, even better, plant a perky patch of bright green shamrocks. Your garden will reflect the groundcover of Ireland’s misty valleys, mossy vales, and serene meadowlands throughout the year. Copyright © 2011 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz