If Saint Patrick’s Day is anywhere in your wheelhouse of observed celebrations, you’ve definitely got some passing awareness of the leprechauns. But Saint Patrick’s Day is, generally, about some guy named Saint Patrick, who wasn’t a leprechaun. Mostly because he was a Saint and leprechauns aren’t real. So the whole going to the end of a rainbow to find leprechaun gold and that whole shebang. Why are leprechauns associated with Saint Patrick’s Day?
Need Trivia Team Names: The 17 Greenest Saint Patrick’s Day Trivia Team Names
What Are Leprechauns?
So for starters, leprechauns come from Irish folklore, generally falling under the fairy, pixie, or sprite banner. Similar to how you might understand fairies, leprechauns are beings of mischief that like practical jokes and stealing stuff. They’re often depicted as little bearded men with those coats and hats. Eventually they would become shoe shiners.
Why are there no female leprechauns? Well it’s actually a whole thing, and there isn’t any record of female leprechauns in folklore. A lot of our leprechaun culture is actually quite contemporary; they didn’t appear very often in tales and such. No really, some records indicate red leprechauns with a lot of different hats–even though now they’re all green. Green and Irish culture is largely a 20th century thing, at some point green became shorthand for Irish culture and nobody contested it. Regardless, leprechauns are said to be unwanted fairy children, which is why they are said to operate alone. As well as being generally untrusting and irritated all the time. Can’t blame them.
Leprechauns do have their treasure, the whole pot of gold at the end of the rainbow being a fairly new thing, but it’s a thing. Oh also, there is no gold at the end of the rainbow in real life. That’s because rainbows are actually circles and have no end. Anyway, leprechauns did have their gold and treasure, with some accounts holding that they’re kind of the “bankers” of the fairy world.
Saint Patrick’s Day
It’d be really funny if we got to close out this post with “Americans associate leprechauns with Saint Patrick’s Day because Saint Patrick was actually a leprechaun.” Unfortunately the answer is not that funny, and in true American fashion it’s adjacent to marketing and consumerism.
1959 saw the release of the Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. The movie came out in a time where Saint Patrick’s Day parades were gaining ground in the US, and some credit it with pushing leprechauns into Saint Patrick’s Day.
But honestly it just seems like it’s just a byproduct of what Saint Patrick’s Day celebrates. Largely, it marks Saint Patrick’s death and some also celebrate Christianity making it to Ireland in turn (they’re not the same day, they just got mushed together). Not that Saint Patrick actually brought Christianity to Ireland. Records indicate a Christians were already in Ireland by the time Saint Patrick rolled around. Either way, everyone just threw as much Irish culture at the day as they could. Leprechauns included.
More Saint Patrick’s Day trivia here.