Would the real shamrock please step forward?

It’s not often I take on controversy here, but there are times I just can’t stay silent.
I have a responsibility to you, my readers, to take on the hot topic of the moment.
So let’s take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves, and dive in.
Here we are, just a few weeks to St. Patrick’s Day, and shamrocks are everywhere. They are on cards, decorations, signs, clothing, and even Shamrock Shakes.
All is right with the world. Except that it’s not.
Because many of those little green-leafed plants you see are not shamrocks.
Some of them are impostors. They are actually—brace yourself here—four-leaf clovers.

Yes, I know that people speak of the luck of the Irish. The Irish are an especially lucky group. Four-leaf clovers are also lucky. So it’s understandable that there might be some confusion.
But the shamrock has only three leaves. Not four. Not two. Three.
That’s why St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity. A four-leaf clover would have been no use to him.
There may well be four-leaf clovers in Ireland. From what I hear, it’s full of luck and green. But when we are looking for symbols of St. Patrick’s Day, we need to stick with tradition here. The shamrock is the appropriate symbol for St. Patrick’s Day. And it has only three leaves.

“What’s the problem?” you ask. “They’re green, and everything is green for St. Patrick’s Day!”

That’s true, at least here in the United States. But if all they add is color and no meaning, why not use green hippos or asparagus or Kermit the Frog to decorate instead? It’s certainly more fun.

Down with four-leaf clovers.
Up with the shamrock.

Now that that’s settled, let’s all go have Shamrock Shakes.

You might also enjoy this Irish soda bread recipe.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.