The month of March—a time to reflect upon, learn about and celebrate the Irish and their presence around the world. While St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th of March is celebrated all over the world and commemorates the patron saint of Ireland through community festivity, the entire month of March is aimed at recognizing the contributions and impacts that Irish immigrants have had throughout America since the early 19th century. 

Before we explore the origin stories of the Irish symbol, the shamrock, it’s important to remember that in DBT, there is no absolute truth. We value the ‘kernel-of-truth’ in a variety of perspectives and work to find the synthesis. Consider using the phrase, both and, rather than this or that, as you reflect on the symbolic meaning of the shamrock and the intricacies of St. Patrick’s Day. 

Why does the shamrock symbolize luck?

First off, Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland is remembered for driving the snakes out of Ireland. He used the shamrock to explain the trinity, with the fourth leaf representing God’s grace with esteem and luck (Fortune). Additionally, others reference the four-leaf clover in the Bible story of Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden with the shamrock representing their time in “paradise” (Fortune). Furthermore, in a natural sense, a shamrock is an animal’s source of food, bees use its nectar and the soil around it grows richer (Fortune). In its scarcity lies the symbol of good luck. Whether you think about the four-leafed clover in a religious sense or in the beauty of finding one by chance; there is value in exploring others’ perspectives too. 

St. Patrick’s Day is a day that is observed by those who claim Irish heritage as well as many who don’t. Celebrations consist of images of shamrocks, the wearing of green, meals of corned beef and cabbage, joyous gatherings, as well as community parades of Irish music and Irish dance performances. The annual holiday also creates an opportunity for activism on social and political issues through language and symbols promoted in parades throughout the country (Cronin & Adair). It is important to acknowledge that Irishness in America is not without political campaigns and the turmoil of colonialism. Here again, we see both and, at play with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations focused on community entertainment AND being a platform for advocacy and change.

In celebrating all things “Irish,” St. Patrick’s Day has changed over time and will continue to do so, highlighting both progress and purpose (Cronin & Adair). While St. Patrick’s Day is a festivity filled day it also brings to light many differences between Irish Americans today. The holiday is often viewed as seeing the Irish as united together and at the same time the lure of shamrocks and parades hides many long-standing divisions within the Irish community and that of other groups in host society (Cronin & Adair). 

Overall, St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that focuses on uniting the Irish community, as well as inspiring growth and change in communities all over the world. Whether you have celebrated with green clothing and a shamrock shake, by attending a Gaelic Storm concert or feasting on corned beef and cabbage at a local Irish establishment, we encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new about the Irish community near you. 

St. Patrick’s Day community resources:
St. Patrick’s Day & March Fun • Lake Country Family Fun
St. Patrick’s Day Parade | Downtown Milwaukee (saintpatricksparade.org)

References:
–Cronin, M. & Adair, D. (2004). The wearing of the green: a history of St. Patrick’s Day. Routledge.
–Fortune, A. S. O. G. St. Patrick’s Day.