Have you ever played the telephone game? You know the one where everyone lines up and a phrase is spoken to the first person in line who then repeats it to the next person and so on? By the time it gets to the end, the phrase is nowhere near what the original one was. That is sort of how some traditions are changed over the years. The symbolism and stories behind St. Patrick’s Day are a whole lot more powerful than the watered-down version we celebrate today.
Before St. Patrick’s arrival to Ireland, the shamrock was used as a pagan symbol for rebirth and eternal life. The three-leafed plant represented the “Triple Goddesses” of Brigid, Ériu, and the Morrigan. St. Patrick is credited for taking the pagan symbolism and giving it new meaning. He used the shamrock as a symbol of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each leaf of the plant is really three leaves connected as one.
After St. Patrick’s death on March 17, the people of Ireland would wear a shamrock in their lapel in honor of him. In the 1798 rebellion, shamrocks were used to make a political statement. Soldiers wore uniforms in the color of green to get attention. Somewhere down the road the image was changed to a four-leaf shamrock that represented good luck. It also became a symbol of Irish pride.