When you think about St. Patrick’s Day, what comes to mind first? Four-leaf clovers? Leprechauns? Shamrock Shakes?
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the globe every year on March 17. It is a giant celebration of St. Patrick on the date of his death. He was a patron saint who was believed to be taken as a slave to Ireland. This holiday began in the early seventeenth century and is bigger than ever today with millions of people dressed head to toe in all green.
Saint Patrick used three-leaved shamrocks, or clovers, to explain the Holy Trinity, which defined god as three different people: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. This has evolved into the “lucky” four-leaved clover. Each leaf of the clover symbolizes faith, hope, love and luck. The five-leaved clover brings even more luck than the allusive four-leaved clover. I have been lucky enough to find a four-leaved clover in my life time but, not everyone has had this experience.
Hundreds of years ago, priests in Ireland believed that carrying around a three-leaved clover would let them see evil spirits, allowing the priests to avoid them. Similarly, in the Middle Ages, children believed that carrying around a four-leaved clover would grant them the ability to see fairies.
There are 50 million square miles of land on our lovely planet Earth and to find a tiny four- or five-leaved clover seems nearly impossible. Four-leaved clovers are variations (mutations) of three-leaved clovers. Clover plants do not naturally grow four leaves, which is why these four-leaved clovers are considered mutations. There are approximately 10,000 three-leaved clovers for every four-leaved clover and there have been over 160,000 documented four-leaved clovers.
Clovers have been found with more than three leaves, more than four leaves, and even more than five leaves. The most leaves on a clover ever discovered was 56. This wonderful creation from nature was found in Japan in 2009. Although Japan is famous for this particular clover, Ireland still holds the prize. The saying, “the luck of the Irish” refers to the fact that Ireland is home to more four-leaved clovers than any other place on the planet. This “luck” serves as an important symbol. SpaceX, a space exploration company, has an embroidered patch for every rocket launch since 2008 that has a four-leaved clover on it for good luck. This “luck” has turned into a bit of a superstition. On the night of his assassination, Abraham Lincoln was not carrying his lucky four-leaved clover. He always carried his lucky clover with him, but his luck ran out that night.
The odds of finding a four-leaved clover are 10,000 to 1. The odds of finding a five-leaved clover are 1,000,000 to one. May the luck of the Irish be with you!