Elbow deep in soapy sippy cups, I chatted with Riley as she worked on her latest masterpiece. She has a lot to discuss after school, although none of it ever has much to do with school.
We covered creating a new cookie recipe (no pressure), Mimi’s favorite fruits, and why her daddy owns so many shirts that appear to be “exactly the same!” And then she shifted to holidays. She likes to celebrate every holiday, big and small. To that end, she’s always keeping a running tally in her of what comes next.
“What IS a leprechaun anyway, Mommy?”
Born into a family with Irish American roots, I’ve heard tales of Ireland for as long as I can remember. Nana, of course, always told the best stories. Settling in with her black coffee and unfiltered cigarette, she regaled us with stories of Pa and the cousins back in Ireland. She spoke in great detail, describing each moment – each memory – with care. Huddled around the dining room table crunching on toast buttered to perfection, we hung on every word. We were raised to believe that it was out history too, because it was.
And yet, a simple question about a mythical Irish creature left me stumped. How is it possible that I’ve lived 38 years of stories and jokes about the Irish, and yet I really don’t know what a leprechaun is?
Have leprechauns gained notoriety in recent years and I simply missed the boat? How is that I was sent to school each March 17th dressed in head to toe green with a giant “Kiss me, I’m Irish” button on my shirt but I can’t think of a single thing to say in response to my curious daughter?
“Are they like elves?”
She broke my silent trip down memory lane with a follow up question. This kid needed and answer.
“You know what? I’m not really sure how to explain leprechauns, so let’s look it up and we’ll learn about them together.”
As it turns out, leprechauns are actually fairies. I know – Riley couldn’t believe it either. Members of the infamous “tinker” family, they are known to be excellent cobblers who earn their gold by making and fixing shoes. They live deep in the forest in Ireland, preferring to stay out of the way. They often live in hollowed out trees or logs and go to great lengths to stay out of sight when humans are near. But they are curious little fellows, and they wonder about us just as we wonder about them.
Here’s the interesting thing: Leprechauns have a reputation for being tricky, and sometimes they are even described as mean, but they’re not. Sure, they love to play practical jokes, but they are actually friendly little creatures. They just don’t like it when humans try to trick them into giving up their pot of gold.
Legend has it that if you happen to encounter a leprechaun, you should hold his gaze and never look away. When you hold his gaze he has to tell you the location of his gold, but if you look away – even for a second, he will disappear.
But legend also has it that if a leprechaun happens upon a friendly family, he might stay a while. He is likely to fix a few broken things and might even leave some new shoes for the family. As long as he knows that you won’t trick him, he will happily blend into the family for a while.
So how do you host a leprechaun? You begin by making him a cozy place to stay…
You will need:
- A small box
- Green construction paper
- Green tissue paper
- Shamrock stickers
- Flower stickers (leprechauns love flowers, they are even known to eat them)
- Any other decorations you might see fit
1. Cut a small door and perhaps a window in your leprechaun house before you begin decorating – leprechauns like to roam around as they wish. They do not like to be trapped!
2. Cover your house with green construction paper – leprechauns are known to favor green because it helps them blend in among the trees and grass to hide from curious humans.
3. Decorate with shamrocks, flowers, and anything else that you think a leprechaun might find appealing.
Leend has it that the best way to show a leprechaun that you have a leprechaun-friendly home is to leave out a small bowl of warm milk by the front door before you go to bed. Leprechauns love warm milk and will make themselves at home if they encounter this friendly gesture. They also enjoy a diet of fruit and nuts, so you might leave a few snacks as well.
You aren’t likely to see your leprechaun friend, but you will know he was there. He will probably fix something around the house and he might even leave a coin or another small treat as a token of his appreciation.