The Legend of the Leprechaun


Bella Kim (poster by Jenna Bustos)

March Spirit Days ASB poster.

Bella Kim, Co-Editor

St. Patrick’s Day has come to be represented by tales of following the rainbow to the pot of gold and mischievous men dressed in green. But the real origins of this celebration have little to do with setting traps for leprechauns to gain their riches.

Celebrated on March 17 by the Irish for over 1,000 years, St. Patrick’s Day is the anniversary of its namesake’s death. Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick, was abducted and brought to Ireland as a slave when he was 16. After escaping Ireland, he returned and was honored for introducing the Irish to Christianity. The Irish continued to worship him even after he died. 

Restrictions that are customary for the Christian season of Lent are lifted for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. It is traditional for Christians to give up something they enjoy during Lent to imitate Jesus Christ’s 40-day retreat into the desert. These limits are overlooked on St. Patrick’s Day so people can eat, drink and dance to celebrate.

Florida hosted the first known St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1601. St. Augustine, Florida’s parade was put together by Ricardo Artur, the Irish representative for what was then a Spanish colony. In 1772, Irish soldiers in the English military led a march in New York City, and other cities in America followed their lead. Now, the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade is the oldest and largest citizen parade in the United States. Over 150,000 people participate in the procession down the 1.5-mile parade route in New York City.

There are many false myths and superstitions associated with St. Patrick’s Day, including the assumption that corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish meal. The authentic meal is Irish bacon, not corned beef. Corned beef was used instead by Irish immigrants because they could not afford the bacon in America. 

Another American St. Patrick’s Day tradition is to wear green. People who do not wear green on St. Patrick’s Day get pinched. Mischievous fairy folk like leprechauns are believed to pinch anybody they see, but supposedly, they are not able to see the color green. Anyone who wears green is invisible to fairy creatures, but those who do not are pinched. 

Furthermore, green was not the original color of St. Patrick’s Day. Sky blue was the color of the earliest image of St. Patrick, but green became more commonly identified as an Irish color because of their green, orange and white flag. Ireland is also known as the “Emerald Isle” because of its green landscape. Shamrocks, or three-leaf clovers, are the green symbols of Ireland because St. Patrick is believed to have used them to represent the Holy Trinity, or the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Four-leaf clovers are considered extremely lucky and are very rare because clovers naturally have three leaves. Each leaf stands for hope, faith, love and happiness.

Leprechauns are a familiar myth linked with St. Patrick’s Day. Irish folklore says that leprechauns are short, cranky men, very different from the jolly, orange-bearded creatures we know them as today. According to CBS News, “The original Irish fables portrayed the pint-sized creatures as ugly and mean. Leprechauns were shoemakers who hid the money they made from their craft in pots hidden at the end of rainbows.”

Since you cannot really find the end of the rainbow, it is said that to get the pot of gold, you must catch a leprechaun and force him to tell you where he hid it. This legend has inspired many people to create leprechaun traps, hoping to catch the elusive leprechaun and win his pot of gold. 

This St. Patrick’s Day at McAuliffe, ASB is hosting two spirit days. Spirit and Activities member Zach Bambadji lent, “Our committee has been hard at work getting ready for the upcoming event this week.” March 17 is an online learning day, so students can wear green to school the day before, on Tuesday. Members of ASB will be handing out green candy after school. Friday, March 19, ASB is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness three-pointer contest. 

Bambadji commented, “We are doing this activity this way because our team thought it would be a good idea to combine March Madness and Saint Patrick’s day into one event.” After each cohort, students can come to the quad and try to throw a basketball into a pot of gold. Winners will receive pots of gold chocolate coins and an In-N-Out gift card. 

Although there are many inaccurate St. Patrick’s Day traditions, it is still a day to celebrate Irish culture and history, wear green and search for pots of leprechaun gold!