My daughter, who lives in New York City, will be watching her first St. Patrick’s Day parade. She will also be participating in the world’s largest pub crawl, The Luck of the Irish St. Patty’s Day Pub Crawl. Sounds like a great time. When I talked to her last night, she was having a hard time finding anything green to wear. I’m sure with thousands of New Yorkers participating in the parade and pub crawl, green is probably a highly interested color.
Well, back here in West Virginia, I am sitting here thinking about the big green day and especially about leprechauns. And how I just don’t know what to think of them.
Yesterday, I had my fourth graders write a St. Patrick’s Day haiku, like I do whenever I feel like having them write one. And I wrote one too. Now, you have to understand that I never shared my views on leprechauns with my kids. I never really thought much about the short people before. But, my students’ haikus and my own made me want to take a step back and take a look at this whole leprechaun and St. Patrick’s Day scheme of things a little closer.
Leprechauns are mean
They will take my pot of gold
Go away now, please!
Shamrocks and pinching
and bad leprechauns hiding
please leave me alone.
And here is mine
are you stealing my wallet?
goofy green midget
I honestly couldn’t believe that I wrote that. I read mine aloud, and change “midget” to “short guy.” I just sat there, stunned, looking at my paper. So, that’s how I really felt about leprechauns? And how politically incorrect. Not good, Vickie, not good. I wondered if I had been attacked by a leprechaun when I was little or something. There had to be a reason for my animosity towards bearded Irish guys in green clothing.
In the meantime, I looked at my other haiku. I had the kids write two different ones. Here is my other one:
I found some money
at the end of the rainbow.
Led me to a bank.
Um, ok. This is not a happy St. Patrick’s Day person writing these haiku’s. I have some issues. I also have twenty-one students, and I would say that most of them wrote about bad or mean leprechauns. I wonder why? So, I thought that I would do some research and collect some data on these horrid little creatures (see, there I go again) and see why they are getting a bad rap.
We all know that St. Patrick’s Day is about shamrocks, parades, and all things green. And all things Irish. But, I really didn’t know the meaning behind some of the symbols. Let’s take a look at some of them before we get to my main topic:
1. The shamrock- The shamrock was the sacred plant of Ireland. It symbolized the rebirth of spring. According to History.com, “By the seventeenth century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.”
2. Those damned snakes- Again from History.com:
“It has long been recounted that, during his mission in Ireland, St. Patrick once stood on a hilltop (which is now called Croagh Patrick), and with only a wooden staff by his side, banished all the snakes from Ireland. In fact, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The “banishing of the snakes” was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity. Within 200 years of Patrick’s arrival, Ireland was completely Christianized.” Oh, ok, a metaphor. I was wondering how that worked. I had my thoughts-
Patrick: “Hey, snakes of Ireland. I don’t want you here. Begone, you little bastards!’
Snakes: “Sssssssstop talking, sssssssstupid ssssssaint.”
Or something like that.
St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland via photo Irregular Times
3. Corned beef- Which I’m sorry, but corned beef sounds disgusting. I have always been picky and just the names of some of the foods made me refuse to try them. Well, like cheesecake. I have never had a piece of cheesecake in my life. It just reminds me of provolone and icing. I shudder. Corned beef reminds me of hunks of corn in ground beef. Ok, wait. That doesn’t sound that bad. Anywho, corned beef is a more recent addition to all things Irish. Irish Americans gather together on St. Patrick’s Day to share a meal of corned beef and cabbage. Immigrants who came to New York City’s Lower East Side from Ireland substitute corned beef for their tradtional bacon to save money.
Where the hell is the cabbage? photo via foodnetwork.com
4. Pot of gold at the end of the freaking rainbow- What if there was a double rainbow…Wow.
5. Leprechauns- Ok, this is huge!! We can blame Walt Disney Productions for putting leprechauns in our St. Patrick’s Day. Walt Freakin Disney. Yep. Leprechauns never had a damn thing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, sure, they were folklore in Europe, but not specifically for the holiday, which is supposed to be a religious observation. I guess if Christmas has Santa Claus and Easter has a bunny, why not a short guy for St. Patrick’s Day, I guess.
Once again, according to History.com, “The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is “lobaircin,” meaning “small-bodied fellow.”
Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O’Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore. This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.”
I also read that leprechauns were shoe makers and hid their coins in a hidden pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Which, I think, is irresponsible. Which rainbow? The one over Dublin at 3pm last Saturday? No wonder they didn’t have money to buy another set of clothes.
Well, so there you have it. Well, I don’t have it. I still don’t know why I am not a fan.
Ok, now I remember…….