What is the meaning of shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day?
Shamrocks have long served as the symbol for one of the world’s rowdiest holidays, seen emblazoned on the hats, t-shirts, and beer mugs of those partaking in St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Yet the origin behind the symbol might be more theological than some would expect.
According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity while on the road trying to convert his countrymen to Catholicism in the 5th century. Plucking a shamrock from the grass at his feet, St. Patrick explained that just as the shamrock is one leaf with three parts, God is one entity who takes three different forms.
The shamrock first began to shift away from its religious associations in the 18th century, when it was used as a national symbol by Irish militias sworn to defend Ireland from French and Spanish invasions after British soldiers withdrew to fight in the American Revolutionary War.
As the national emblem of Ireland, the shamrock appears on the Royal Coat of Arms of the UK alongside the rose of England and the thistle of Scotland.
Today, many celebrants still conclude St. Patrick’s day by “Drowning the Shamrock,” a tradition that calls for one to float a leaf of the plant in their final whiskey of the evening.