“My mom did something every St. Patrick’s Day when I was growing up. She would sneak into my room the night before, ransack it and put green streamers all around my room. She would write a note from the leprechauns on the mirror in green lipstick and then put green food dye and gold glitter in the toilet like they had used it and left the seat up.
“They were just mischievous little devils … I had a stuffed animal that I really loved, a toucan called birdy friend, and one year she tied up birdy friend with the streamers.”
GR is a 21 year-old college student from Portland, OR, currently living in Los Angeles. Her grandparents were Irish immigrants.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated every year on the 17th of March. It is both a religious and cultural holiday celebrated by citizens of Ireland and Irish people, such as GR’s mom. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, where nearly a third of the population believes in the existence of leprechauns.
While she can’t pinpoint the moment she stopped believing the leprechauns were real, GR said definitely believed it when she was really young.
GR said she definitely will continue the tradition if she has kids one day. “It’s just so fun and magical. It brings such joy and silliness and playfulness into your life. My mom helped me realize that, yes, magic is real but it’s something that we create ourselves.”
She even intended to recreate the tradition for her housemates at college this year, but the holiday fell during spring break.
“Something that I do really believe in is creating magic for other people.”
The annual celebration of St. Patrick’s Day falls very close to the spring equinox, an example of how folk traditions are embedded in the cycles of seasons.
This idea of cyclic time allows a repeated festival to pull together moments in time. As GR told me about her mother’s tradition of leprechauns wreaking havoc in her room, she was recalling not a singular event but a culmination of every year’s festivities, each year building upon the prior memories of the holiday.
Because festivals have a specific time and place, it was difficult for GR to continue this tradition once she moved away from home, despite her intention to do so.
An aspect of festival time is the idea of ritual inversion, a process by which social roles are reversed or subverted. On any other day, GR’s mom would not be trashing her child’s room; more likely she would be asking GR to pick up after herself. Inverting these norms is part of what signifies that it is a special day.