The Irish don’t know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it.
~ Sidney Littlewood
If you define St Patrick’s Day as a festive time filled with music, drinking and boiled ham, cabbage and potatoes* then my entire childhood was one long Irish-American celebration.
However, my earliest memory of St Paddy’s Day is that of horror. I was a wee lass and me mother announced twas St Patrick’s Day. I was thrilled. I have no idea why other than it was a holiday and holidays meant festivities and festivities meant some delicious treats and perhaps even presents. I was jumping up and down chanting “Yay! It’s St. Patrick’s Day!”
Herself continued, “ And you know what that means, don’cha lass? It means I got to take you down to Macy’s to see the wee Leprechaun!”
Woo Hoo! It does mean presents! I could hardly contain my excitement! I’m going to meet the Leprechaun and get a gift because I’m a good little Irish girl. How lucky I was to be born Irish!
And then, in a very serious voice, my mother delivered the truth: “Yes, I’m taking you to Macy’s to meet the Leprechaun and have your ass painted green!”
Yes! I’m going to Macy’s to meet the Leprechaun and have my … (wait a minute) WHAT?! I was at this point picturing a long line similar to the one I stood in to meet Santa Claus, only now children were waiting to see the leprechaun. He was sitting on a magical mushroom under a faux rainbow with pots of gold coin candies nearby. Across his lap was a screaming child with his pants pulled down. The leprechaun holding a paintbrush was slapping the emerald green paint across the protesting child’s bare bottom. It’s tradition and seemed no stranger to me than some jolly fat man I saw once a year just to tell him what I wanted and having him slide down my chimney and deliver it. No stranger than a rabbit getting into our home at night, filling our baskets with chocolate and hiding eggs all over our house. Of course I believed her. I was mortified.
I ran and hid all day. There was no way I was letting anyone paint my bottom green. I don’t care how big a gift I got or how many gold candy coins I could take.
This continued throughout my childhood until a teacher asked us about Irish traditions. It seems no one else knew about the Leprechaun in Macy’s.
* Tis true, only the Americans eat corned beef and cabbage.