Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Why do we associate shamrocks with Saint Patrick ’s Day, and why do we call them shamrocks?
Just as roses serve as a symbol of love on Saint Valentine’s Day, the shamrock has been associated with Saint Patrick’s Day due to the missionary himself, Saint Patrick, using it as a symbol of the holy trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This representation of the trinity, via the 3 separate leaves, distinguishes a shamrock, from a four-leaf clover.
But why call it a shamrock, when botanists simply recognize it as a clover?
The term “shamrock” is derived from the Irish word, seamrog, meaning “little clover”. The problem lies in which clover is the “shamrock”. As there are several 3-leaf clovers in existence in Ireland, Irish botanists cannot agree on which of the 4, well-known 3-leaf clovers constitutes a shamrock. For now, we will have to go with the majority who argue a shamrock is a lesser trefoil or hop clover (Trifolium dubium).
While the botanists spend their time arguing about clovers, we can all pretend to be Irish on March 17th, and enjoy a green beer in honor of the luck o’ the Irish.