I know that when we’re in our young adulthood (i.e. before having kids), it’s easy to forget some of the family-friendly traditions surrounding “minor” cultural days like St. Patrick’s day. Before having kids, St. Patrick’s Day was about going out for a pint or two of beer at a cheesy Irish-themed pub. In fact, in my mind, St. Patrick’s Day became so connected to drinking that I forgot that it’s a day that children like to observe as well. But — and I don’t think it’s just the green beer talking here — has the way kids celebrate St. Patrick’s Day changed drastically since my own uncomplicated childhood in the early ‘80s?
Here’s what I remember about St. Patrick’s day from when I was a kid: we would get to drink a single Shamrock Shake from McDonalds and you had to wear green to school or else the other kids would have free reign to pinch you, even as the teachers looked on. Now, I can understand that modern times have put an end to the pinching at school — I know that as a parent I would be none too happy if my kid came home with an arm full of bruises because I misread the calendar and dressed him in orange. So schools have started to come up with new St. Paddy’s traditions, but it seems to me like they may have forgotten to fill parents in on the ground rules.
I have a daughter currently in Grade 2 and a son in his second year of preschool and for the first time last year I learned that Leprechauns are meant to visit children the night before St. Patrick’s Day to play “tricks.” In my son’s classroom they left green footprints and messed up some of the play centres. My daughter’s class made Leprechaun traps baited with mayo spread on stale crackers, which is apparently the favoured food of tiny Irish elves (or, more accurately, the only leftover snack her teacher could find in the staff room). Apparently, rumours were spread around the playground that Leprechauns often also visit kids at home and hide treats, like the Easter Bunny. This is not something I learned until my kids woke up on March 17th and started crying because there were no treats to be found.
Did I miss something? When did this Leprechaun visits start happening? Was it in the late ‘90s when the rituals of children were the last thing on my mind? Do Leprechauns leave treats or make mischief at your house? Or for you, is St. Patrick’s Day still just about the green beer?