St. Patrick, Shamrocks, "Luck of the Irish"- Making Sense out of St. Patrick's Day

Imagine our surprise when, as we were doing research for this article, we found very little to support some of the seeming myths of St. Patrick's Day. "St. Patrick"

While St. Patrick (385-461 AD) is indeed the patron Saint of Ireland, he is not even Irish! He was from France.  His real name was Succat.  He didn't see Ireland until he was kidnapped by Irish Raiders.  His tomb, located at Down Patrick Cathedral, does not contain his body and no one claims to know where he is buried!

He is attributed with bringing Catholicism to the Irish.


There are again differing opinions about this symbol of modern Ireland.  Some believe St. Patrick used the clover (3 leaf) to symbolize the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity. This theory, because it was developed about 1,200 years after the death of St. Patrick, has been questioned for authenticity.  There is also nothing in his writing to allude to this.

Others believe that in Celtic history, the shamrock was used to symbolize the 3 phases of the moon.

Queen Victoria of England, during the Crimean War (October 1853-February 1856), is said to have decreed that all Irishmen in the British Army could wear a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day to honor the Irish who gave up their lives.

On the other hand, I have also read that by the 1770s the shamrock had been adopted as the emblem of the Irish Volunteers. It then came  to be associated with rebellious, nationalistic views and led Queen Victoria's government to then forbid all Irish regiments within the British Army to wear shamrock in the 19th century.

During the time of the American revolution, Henry Grattan (a leader of the Protestant class) became a leader of a group known as "The Irish Volunteers." This group became powerful and began to lobby for the restrictions to be lifted against the Irish Catholics and Irish trade. Grattan said, "The Irish Protestant cannot be free until the Irish Catholic ceases to be a slave."

When the Irish Volunteers began to take up the wearing of the shamrock during this time, it was seen as an act of rebellion. Laws were passed that anyone wearing the Shamrock would be hung. The United Irishmen were unsuccessful in the rebellion of 1798.

No matter what the truths are, the shamrock has come to symbolize the Irish people and has been registered as a trademark with the Irish Government.  It is now used as emblems for sports teams and other Irish organizations.

A shamrock is not to be confused with a four-leaf clover.  Apparently, they are separate species in the plant world.

"Luck of the Irish"

This one seems to be the biggest myth of all.  You will find very few people who think that the Irish are lucky.  They went through many hardships on their own land such as the potato famine, English cruelty, the Vikings and more.  The immigrants who came to America suffered from prejudice, cruelty, and persecution.  They were made to take the most dangerous jobs, such as the building of the railroads and mining, often being buried on the job site when they died.  Often, when jobs were advertised, there was a disclaimer “no Irish allowed”.

So, beware of what you wish to your fellow Irish on this happy holiday of St. Patrick's Day.  Wear a shamrock, drink some green beer, take a dip in the green river, but do NOT wish anyone the "Luck of the Irish!"