Many stories exist about St Patricks time in Ireland. From these, two common emblems emerge. The Shamrock (seamróg in Irish), and the Snakes.
The Shamrock is a native Irish plant, from the clover family, and has a distinctive trefoil shape. St Patrick uses the three leaves of the Shamrock to explain the doctrine of Holy Trinity to the people. Just as one leaf has three distinct parts, God is really three-in-one: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Today, the shamrock plant is considered lucky. Do not confuse it with the four-leafed clover – that’s something different entirely!
Stories tell us that St Patrick also banishes every snake from Ireland’s shores. Hurray for that! Whilst we’ve never seen a native snake here, scientists will tell you that’s because they were never in Ireland anyways. Some see St Patrick’sreputation for snake-banishing as a metaphor for crushing the Pagan practises and old religion of the Irish. Still, no snakes, all good!
So what else did St Patrick do in Ireland? Every county seems to have its own tales and sites they associate with the Patron Saint and his mission to spread Christianity throughout Ireland.
The Wearing of the Green
Why do we wear the colour Green on St Patricks Day? Nowadays, it is seen as a symbol of Irish identity to wear green clothes, costumes or make-up. Originally, it referred to wearing a sprig of lucky shamrock on one’s lapel or hat to mark the Saint’s Day. Unsurprisingly, there was a political aspect too.
“The Wearing of the Green” is an anonymously-penned Irish street ballad from 1798, the time of the Irish Rebellion. During this period, displaying revolutionary insignia was punishable by hanging. Wearing a shamrock in the “caubeen” (hat) was a sign of rebellion from the Society of the United Irishmen, a republican revolutionary organisation. You can hear an old version of the song from the famous Irish Tenor John McCormack, here.