Creativity, kindness, and a dash of magic made St. Patrick's Day in my childhood home an event to anticipate!
Many children excitedly exclaim over the presents left by Santa, candy from the Easter Bunny, money from the Tooth Fairy, and many other fun visitors and customs across the country and around the world. Not too many other kids got to hold tight to belief in their very own leprechaun! But we did, thanks to a fun tradition started by our parents.
The first visit from the leprechaun came when I was eight years old. It was a beautiful March day, one where coats are thrown aside and spirits stay high. I was playing with my little brother and friends in the driveway of our home and the story started when we heard a loud clang from behind us.
What did we do when we heard the clatter? We ran! In the opposite direction. No, we weren't the bravest children.
But upon wandering back toward the source of the noise we found coins - nickels and dimes and quarters - scattered everywhere. We hurried inside. Surely it must have been Mom's doing? But there she was in the living room, the vacuum roaring. She had no idea what all the commotion was about and patiently watched us jump around, excitedly describing our great find. It was she who reminded us of the date: St. Patrick's Day. We quickly realized that we must have been visited by a friendly leprechaun!
Odd events continued throughout the day. We came home after dinner out to discover a line of marbles trailing up the lawn's edge. I discovered a wee leprechaun figurine hidden beneath my shoe! More coins appeared going down the basement stairs. Our world was full of magic that evening. It was no time before we believed in our little leprechaun friend as wholly as each other.
Being the polite children that we were, we settled down to write him a letter of thanks for the little blessings. We set the letter out where the the leprechaun would be sure to find it and went to sleep, finally. The next morning I woke up to the greatest surprise: the leprechaun had written back! We learned he was named Leadril and was indeed a friend. He'd left us the gifts and hoped to visit again the next year. He also told us to keep an eye out for faerie rings that summer!
So we eagerly awaited his return throughout the year. The next night before St. Patrick's Day we now knew to write a letter and welcome our dear Leadril-the-leprechaun to our home. Then with stomachs fluttering in excitement we tried to sleep, waking up the next morning to a world of Irish magic!
A letter written back! Plus clever toys such as wooden flutes, surely straight from the shores of Ireland itself and handcrafted by little hands, as well as everything needed to celebrate an American St. Patrick's Day in style: green top hats and strings of beads and shamrocks galore. And let's not forget the 'gold'! Coins filled our shoes, eliciting shrieks of delight, and yellow foil-wrapped pieces of chocolate could be found in surprising places throughout the whole day.
But oh, this was no ordinary gift-giving event! Leprechauns are nothing if not tricky, always up for a joke or prank. Thankfully we'd caught the attention of a friendly leprechaun whose mischief brought only joy. We laughed and laughed at the site of the sack of gifts strung from the wooden beams in the garage, cleverly tied to the door handle to provide just a tad bit 'o funny trouble for our da in the morning. More coins to fill our hands filled inflated balloons, hidden away in cupboards and snack drawers! Perhaps the best artistic gift from the leprechaun was the giant cursive "L" in the center of the living room floor, made up of plastic shamrocks!
St. Patrick's Day wasn't the only time we got a leprechaun's visit! I recall once upon a time our new kitten became a bit of a pest to our tiny friend. Kitty's obsession with sticking her paws through the boards of the front porch, constantly snooping around the area, and meowing insistently made one thing clear to us kids: the leprechaun's home was right here and in right danger from the little furry ball of a beast! Leadril the leprechaun was forced to write to us and ask for help in keeping the little kitten away from trouble.
And do you think we only received gifts for St. Patrick's Day? Not at all! We were eager to make friends, to celebrate with the greatest house guest one can have on March 17th. Not to mention we knew it was never polite to let a relationship stand one-sided -- and proper etiquette was surely something such mystical ancient creatures would appreciate! So a small helping of our St. Patrick's Day meal of corn beef and cabbage with proper spuds was set aside each year, then carefully laid out on the porch for the leprechaun to eat with ease. But of course he would need something to wash down such a hearty meal! We may have convinced our ma to add a sip of 'adult beverage' to the offering!
Once in a while, at random times throughout the seasons, we'd hear a mysterious noise and go running to find a handful of coins thrown about - and once an actual black pot filled with them! It was great fun, never knowing when or where the next surprise would come.
Eventually a time came when our leprechaun informed us that the wee beasties on yonder hill (our neighbor's dogs!) were causing too much trouble for such little folk to be living in these parts. The leprechauns took their leave. But not without a goodbye! We were crushed to see them go, but touched by the presence of our own leprechaun in our lives. "Leadril" had assured that the possibility of mystical beings and spells and luck and things unseen with the naked eye could live strong in us even past the age when most kids had begun to lose touch with such a wondrous way of viewing the world around us.
Nowadays I'm all grown up. Each St. Patrick's Day I watch my little sister receive a visit from the daughter of my own leprechaun, sent to carry on the tradition! And you know what? When she's squealing with excitement and her eyes are dancing as if to the beautiful Celtic music she adores, I smile right along with her just as our parents used to watch fondly as my brother and I woke on our own childhood St. Patrick's Days.
As you can see, St. Patrick's Day is a very special holiday to my family! I felt as lucky as any Irish soul spotting a leprechaun could, as rich as any finder of a pot o' gold. For I'd received a gift that would forever shine: belief that magic can exist in our everyday lives.