Monday, March 17, 2014

The Scots-Irish Leprechauns

Did you know that there are more people of Irish descent living in the United States than there are in Ireland? Here's a map showing the places in the United States with the highest concentration of people claiming Irish heritage:

via The Washington Post
This explains why I assume that everyone (except me) is Irish. Where I grew up, everyone is Irish. It's funny that even though I lived around all those Irish people it wasn't until I moved to chartreuse-colored Georgia and had kids that I learned about the St. Patrick's Day leprechaun. Just in case you've miraculously missed out on this addition to the ways-to-make-overtaxed-parents-even-crazier department, I will explain. The St. Patrick's Day leprechaun is brought to you courtesy of the people who adore Elf on the Shelf and need a mid-year fix. Your leprechaun materializes on St. Patrick's Day eve, trashes the house, dyes your toilet water green, sprinkles glitter hither and yon and creates a mess that you'll still be cleaning up when you reach for you first Guinness at noon.

For us, this whole leprechaun business started when the Girl was in preschool. While her class was at music, the leprechaun broke into the classroom, left a message written in green-colored shaving cream, and tracked little green paint leprechaun footprints across the tables. Ever since that fateful St. Patrick's Day, the Girl would ask why the leprechaun didn't visit us. "Oh, honey," I would say, "We aren't Irish. The leprechauns just visit you if you're Irish." The truth is, I didn't want to get sucked into another holiday that would require me to stay up late setting up an elaborate scene and then require me to clean up the elaborate scene the next day. I already did this on birthdays, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter and I enjoyed having a break in the month of March.

Well, that was all fine until I made the mistake of confessing, in the Girl's earshot, that we are Scots-Irish. To my understanding, and some Wikipedia-ing, the Scots-Irish were Protestant settlers of Ulster in Ireland who migrated to the United States in the 18th and 19th Centuries. When they arrived in the United States, they found the coastal areas to be pretty well-populated, so they set out to conquer the frontier. Many settled in Maine, Appalachia, and the Ozark Mountains. In "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America," James Webb says that the Scots-Irish character reflected stubbornness, individualism and distrust of the elite, as well as a strong commitment to military service. Clearly I've got these qualities in spades. Just yesterday I refused to give up my parking space to a lady driving a Range Rover and then I shot out her tires, just cuz I loves weapons.

The Girl seized upon my statement and declared that this year the Scots-Irish leprechauns were coming to visit. Because I am stubborn and always ready to fight, I tried to argue my way out of the leprechaun visit. "I'm not sure that the Scots-Irish even had leprechauns," I said. "Well, what did they have?" she asked. "I don't know, illiteracy and rickets?" She just gave me the pitying look that she gives when she's being the adult and I'm being the petulant child. Then she rallied the support of her brother and sister: "Guys, the Scots-Irish leprechauns are visiting us this year! The girl leprechaun is named Clementine and the boy is named Harper." The Boy on the Baby were on board because, fun and also presents!

Seeing that I was beaten, I tried to influence the outcome. "I hope you realize that these leprechauns don't cause mischief. They bring you practical things like lightbulbs and shampoo." I offered. They probably also steal large quantities of Sudafed, but why incorporate that lesson into a fun holiday tradition? "No they don't. They bring you gold coins and oranges," the Girl said. "No, they bring you umbrellas and new socks." I tried. "Mom!" The Girl was having none of my tomfoolery. "Fine. You tell me what they're supposed to bring and I'll let the leprechauns know." I like how we keep up the pretense that it's not actually me going and buying gold coins and oranges, but that I'm simply the middleman for this newly-created enterprise governed by imaginary creatures.


The Girl didn't get back to me with much guidance on what these hillbilly leprechauns should bring, so I decided to do some research. I decided that the only way I could legitimately enjoy the whole experience was if I could deliver some authentically Scots-Irish trinkets to the children. Unfortunately, my research reveled that there aren't any kid-appropriate Scots-Irish gifts. My options were basically weapons, moonshine, folk music, or Don't Tread on Me flags. Out of desperation, I decided to go with a color theme. Since the green on the Irish flag represents the Irish Catholics, I decided we'd go with orange since I know we're not Irish Catholic. That's how we ended up with this random collection:

Too late I realized that if the leprechauns had brought pouches of tobacco and bags of potatoes the kids would have dropped this whole leprechaun business and I could go back to enjoying March. Oh well, there's always next year.

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