The Irish Leprechaun and St. Patrick's Day
Today, even though the Irish leprechaun is closely associated with St. Patrick's Day, he actually has nothing to do with St. Patrick or the history of the holiday. According to Irish folklore, the leprechaun was a little, crotchety old man who spent twenty-four hours a day mending the shoes of all the other fairies. Somewhere in recent history his description changed to make him into a lovable little creature who loved to drink, party and dance. Some people believe that the 1950's Disney movie 'Darby O'Gill and the Little People' is where this change occurred. He was not the cute, plump and happy little man that we think of today.
The Irish word leprechaun means 'little boy', although he definitely is not a boy. As the legend goes, he was an elusive little man who was very hard to catch. If he was caught, he was obliged to grant three wishes to his captor. He had to be watched every second because he would try to escape at every chance he could. He was also a miser who kept all of his gold in a pot at the end of the rainbow. This was also to be turned over to his captor but somehow it never was.
The St. Patrick's Day holiday began on the day that St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 A.D. It was a holy day that was celebrated by the Catholic Church. Back in those early days of Christian Ireland, the only holidays were holy days and they were not celebrated with drinking, dancing and parties. St. Patrick's Day was observed with prayers, reverence and respect for Ireland's patron saint, and a shamrock was worn as homage to St. Patrick. Many people in the Catholic church today are appalled by the revelry and drunkeness of the party-goers. Some say that this type of celebration was started by the Irish-American settlers back in the 1700's but who really knows for sure.
St. Patrick's Day in today's world is a far cry from the reality of the original holiday. There were no leprechauns, painted faces, parties, drunkeness or people making merry. Instead, the people went to mass.
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