History Miscellaneous

Leprechauns, Elves and Other Fantastical Beings

March 20, 2017

I know I am late aren’t I?  Posting about the history behind St. Patrick’s Day and leprochauns with both of the aforementioned three days into the dust.  I am sorry that it might be my fault you weren’t as equipped to handle the day with a little more history.  I hope you at least had something green to wear!

shamrocks - leprechauns

Do you guys ever have those group texts where you suddenly pick up your phone and you have 55 unread text messages? I love those! It’s like a little surprise waiting to be unwrapped. Overwhelming, but still fun. It’s kind of like how you used to feel when you got a letter (not just a card), but a real life letter written with a pen on stationary in the mail.

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day a friend lamented in the midst of 18 other topics in a group text how we must not set the bar too high with regard to the fantasies we play out quite regularly for our children because we must then meet or raise the bar the next time and the next time… Allow me to explain.

Meet Snowflake.

snowflake - leprechauns

snowflake2 - leprechauns

You might have one of these too, but perhaps he or she is named some other clever name like Shepherd, Burger, Bubbakitty, Haney…

Much like my Snowflake, I bet he or she forgets to go to the North Pole every night. When the children wake the next morning, the elf is still sitting or dangling where it was the night before and there you are with a nose like Pinnochio. Stammering something half-audible about email communication and looking over the elf to see if he’s hiding a smart phone.

Last year, before we left to go to my parents’ for Christmas, my husband took the kids with him to gas up the firebird as I like to say. During my family’s 15 minute hiatus to the gas station to fill up the minivan I ran around like a mad woman putting presents under the tree, stuffing stockings and shoving Snowflake into a storage ottoman with my shoes to hide until next December.

I would like to pause to point out that we currently live in a 720 square foot tiny house (read dilapidated lake house) with my husband, three children and a blind dog. Some of you already know this.

tinyhouse - leprechauns

All of the presents were hidden in the trunk of my husband’s car after having been transported from his office (a.k.a. my gift hiding place). Thus, I had to run in and out of the house at least six times to get all of the gifts under the tree.

The mission was accomplished before they returned. They pulled back in and I hopped in the car out of breath. As we backed out of the driveway, one of the boys suddenly realized with great devastation that he had not bid farewell to Snowflake.  He proceeded to cry hysterically begging to go back inside to say goodbye.

I tried to calm him down and assure him he was fine.  Snowflake will be back. It’s okaaaaaaay.  You even wrote him a farewell letter!  You will see him again!  Grandma is expecting us!

Inside I was panicking!  Clearly, going back inside the house was NOT an option.  Snowflake was missing and Santa had already come.  How on Earth would that make any sense to my sweet-minded and innocent children?!

Quickly his wailing was joined by two others who began sobbing hysterically about how long it would be before they too saw him again.

We stopped the car in the driveway and my husband and I looked at each other with that look like – what are you going to do? No. What are you going to do? And, because my husband is smarter (read more deceitful 😉 ) than me he suggested I get the kitchen tongs and bring Snowflake out to the car so they could blow him kisses.

stockings - leprechauns

Translate: please run into the house, dig the elf out of wherever it is you decided to hide him, grab him with the tongs and bring him to the car.

I did. Tears evaporated and everyone’s hearts were full. Then, Snowflake was quickly shoved back into the plastic grocery bag, where he is now suffocating amongst my shoes. Is it really bad if you touch him with your hands? I’m just asking.  For a friend.

Honestly, if I think about it too much, I will feel badly about his living quarters and will need to create a more suitable vacation space for him.

My friend told me her elf, Bubbakitty, is permanently maimed from where he spent his off-season under her husband’s sweaters pressed into the wire closet shelf. I’m looking into botox or something for him.

But that is not all we manage.

There is also the tooth fairy, the man in the red suit, the Easter Bunny, the leprechaun (which is a relatively new one to me) along with the trap you must set to try to catch him, the switch witch (pediatric dentists everywhere are filing bankruptcy), Disney characters, and I am sure there are more!

Mrs. Claus - leprechauns

I had none of these fabrications when I was growing up. Not even the man in the red suit. No I am not deprived. I had a lovely childhood filled with magical Christmases. I even remember the Easter Bunny showing up in elementary school and played along with the other children, but I knew he wasn’t real. For goodness sakes! I could see our principal through the giant breathing hole. I still played along.

Do you think our kids know too?  Do you think they just play along?

I hope not. I hope they aren’t gathering for circle time or sitting over lunch with their peers grading us on our deceitful efforts. If they are, I hope they are smiling warmly about how hard we try to fill their lives with magic.

I cringe at the thought of my oldest, who can read, seeing this and it breaking his heart because he still believes in all of these things.  At least I think he does.  Well, all of these things….except for the greatest ruse of all: Disney characters.

As you all know, not long ago we went on a wipe-warmer level trip to Disney World and I compared that trip to giving birth.  (You can laugh about that here). I had insisted to my husband, despite all the goings on we had, we must go because the kids were the perfect age to feel the full magic of Disney World.

“I want them to belieeeeeve.” I told my husband.

A week or so after we got home the youngest by a minute proclaimed at the dinner table that the characters at Disney are not real.  He went on to explain they are just people dressed like that to make you feel like they are real so you have a good time.  He felt really comfortable about his conclusion.

Pluto - leprechauns

What?! Whaaat?  My bubble burst.

Only the middle child by a minute disputed this repeating over and over in a matter of fact way, “No. They are real. They. Are. Real. ”

Yet, the tooth fairy, who is the most ridiculously forgetful failure of all of the fabrications is forgiven time and time again for not taking the tooth and leaving some amount of money in its place. She is still real, yet Mickey Mouse is not?  Disney, are you listening?  You better be genetically modifying mice and ducks somewhere with pixie dust!  They’re onto you!

fairy godmother - leprechauns

Well, as I sat on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, I called my parents to wish them a happy 55th wedding anniversary. As I talked to my mom my phone buzzed over and over in my ear.  There was a giant textercation underway.  When I got off of the phone – there was the group text I mentioned before.

And, within in the text string was a confession from a friend.

It was after 8 p.m. and the leprechaun had been forgotten.  My friend was departing for the dollar store to buy leprechaun wares.  My heart sank. I too had forgotten.  We didn’t even set a trap!  Her kids did.  Isn’t she clever with what she caught in their trap.

Leprechaun trap - leprechauns

Look a little closer.

Elf in trap - leprechauns

Elf and leprechaun worlds colliding.  Then her daughter found her phone.  And the pictures. But, as it turns out, leprechauns originally were depicted wearing red.  The plot thickened in her house

I had no candy.

Last year I forgot too. That time, my eldest remembered just in time and set a quick and crude trap on the porch.  The kids went to bed with visions of shamrocks dancing in their heads.  I, on the other hand, wrought with the anxiety of being a failure, started texting neighbors and friends…

“Do you have any candy?”

My friend trapesed through the darkness to my driveway wielding peppermint patties.  . I then proceeded to paint my hand green and make little leprechaun feet with the side of my palm and my fingers all over our porch – up to the trap door and away.

green foot prints - leprechauns

This year. I had nothing. Not even a restaurant mint.  The youngest one pointed out the next day that the leprechaun didn’t leave any peppermint patties.  I looked at him perplexed saying, “Hmmmm. He didn’t did he.”  His wheels quickly turned and he concluded it was because we didn’t set a trap.

Phew!  They believe so deeply that they will sort out your lies for you if they are given the chance.  I shall call that delusional rationalization.  It makes me feel very guilty and I try to overcome the guilt with how their eyes sparkle in amazement with all of the magic.

But why in this world or any other world are we suddenly dying our toilet water green and laying traps for this mythical creature? Who is this small man we are cowtowing too?  Another friend on the same textercation had no green food dye.  She put blue dye in the toilet and then what do you think she did?  Yellow and blue make green.  For. The. Love.

lucky - leprechauns

I think we all know where the Elf on the Shelf came from:  a smart and witty mother and daughter fabricated the story and are now making a lot of money for creating an entire industry centered around a lie. I am happy for them.  Seriously.

But what about the leprechaun?  Where did he come from? What does St. Patrick’s Day celebrate?

You shall now know these things.  Read on and try to remember for next year so you can drop one of these little factoids in conversation while you are drinking green beer.

The history behind St. Patrick’s Day is simple.  The day is marked to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland.  He is celebrated every year on March 17th, which is the anniversary of his death in the fifth century.  While St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He later escaped, but came back to Ireland and was credited with bringing Christianity to its people.

The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years, but the first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually occurred in the United States in New York City in 1762.

parade - leprechauns

Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

shamrock - leprechauns

But what about the leprechaun and how did the observation of a saint collide with a short shoemaker clad in green with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Leprechauns are a type of fairy in Irish folklore known for being intelligent and quick witted.  They stand about 2-3 feet tall and only live in Ireland typically in rural areas within underground caves with entrances hidden as rabbit holes.  Leprechauns are shoemakers by trade and if you listen closely, you might hear the tap-tap-tapping of a leprechaun’s hammer as he drives nails into shoes.

They are known to keep their gold at the end of the rainbow.

rainbow - leprechauns

If you find and catch a leprechaun, he will grant you three wishes – that is if he doesn’t trick you first, which might result in you making the wrong wishes and in his escape.

Leprechauns love music and dance.  Some say they dance so much they have to be able to replace their shoes quite frequently.  Many believe leprechauns are drunkards, but it is their Irish cousins the Cluricauns who drink and cause trouble around Ireland at night.  Not the leprechaun.

Actually, in modern-day Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day has traditionally been a religious occasion. Up until the 1970s, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17th.

So why do images of the leprechaun flood St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?

leprechaun - leprechauns

Simply because leprechauns are part of Irish lore and a symbol of Ireland.

Journey on and…

“May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.  May the sun shine warm upon your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hands.”

XO the mamabrain at mamabrains

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