British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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136                                 st. Patrick's day.             [March 17.
during the day. About twenty-four of the Irish noblemen and gentlemen in the school were invited to a grand breakfast with the head master, as is customary on these occasions."
IRELAND.
The shamrock is worn in all parts of Ireland on this day. Old women, with plenteous supplies of trefoil, may be heard in every direction, crying " Buy my shamrock, green shamrocks;" and children have "Patrick's crosses" pinned to their sleeves. This custom is supposed to have taken its origin from the fact that when St. Patrick was preaching the doctrine of the Trinity he made use of this plant, bearing three leaves upon one stem, as a symbol of the great mystery.*
In Contributions towards a Cybele Hibernica (D. Moore and A. G. More, 1866, p. 73) is the following note: " Trifolium repens, Dutch clover, Shamrock.—This is the plant still worn as shamrock on St. Patrick's Day, though Medicago lupulina is also sold in Dublin as the shamrock. Edward Lhwyd, the celebrated antiquary, writing in December 1699 to Tancred Eobinson, says, after a recent visit to Ireland: 1 Their shamrug is our common clover' {Phil. Trans., No. 335). Threkeld, the earliest writer on the wild plants of Ireland, gives Seamar-oge (young trefoil) as the Gaelic name for Trifolium pratense album, and says expressly that this is the plant worn by the people in their hats on Si Patrick's Day. Wade also gives Seamrog as equivalent to
* Mr. Jones in his Historical Account of the Welsh Bards (1794, p. 13) says: When St. Patrick landed near Wicklow the inhabitants were ready to stone him for attempting an innovation in the religion of their ancestors. He requested to be heard, and explained unto them, that God is an omnipotent, sacred Spirit, who created heaven and earth, and that the Trinity is contained in the Unity; but they were reluctant to give credit to his words. St. Patrick, therefore, plucked a trefoil from the ground, and expostulated with the Hiber­nians : " Is it not as possible for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as for these three leaves to grow upon a single stalk?" Then the Irish were immediately convinced of their error, and were solemnly baptized by St. Patrick.
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