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The History of the Shamrock

December 31st, 2012 Seasonal

Is there a more iconic image for Ireland than the shamrock? It's often said that the four-leafed clover brings good luck, but how did the plant receive such notoriety?

According to Fine Gardening, shamrocks were brought to Ireland by the Druids because of their three-leafed structure. Three is a symbolically significant figure for the Druids, so they littered the island with the plant. St. Patrick also used the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity in the fifth century.

It's said that everything good about the Irish comes in groups of three - past, present and future, sky, earth and underground. Even the traditional form of Irish storytelling is based around repeating things three times.

As the years passed, the shamrock became symbolic in other ways as well. In the 19th century, it was regarded as the sign of a rebel, and anyone caught wearing one was at risk of death by hanging.

The original shamrock may not have been green at all - the source reports that many authorities point to the white clover as its ancestor. White clover is a common weed found throughout Ireland that grows quickly and aggressively. It typically has three leaves as well, though occasionally a fourth one will pop up, and one who finds it is said to be blessed with good luck.

According to The Holiday Spot, the shamrock has since become a symbol for the United Kingdom as a whole, joining the rose, the thistle and the leek of England. On St. Patrick's Day, tradition is that a member of the British Royal Family presents a shamrock to the Irish Guard regiment of the British Army.