History of St. Patrick’s Day

17 Mar

A Leprechaun’s Tale

            After enough green beer, anyone can see a leprechaun. The smoke-filled bar was packed with celebrants holding mugs of green beer and wearing shirts or jerseys emblazoned with the logos of their favorite teams. Blue and white clad Colts fans, black and gold waving Boiler Backers, and red and white Hoosier Die-Hards reveled elbow to elbow, yet most, I’m sure, hadn’t a clue what the fuss was really about. All that mattered was that green beer was on tap and the man decked out from head to toe in ND regalia was buying the rounds. Somewhere between the first round and the one I lost count on, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder.

            Glancing over my shoulder, I did not see anyone who appeared to want my attention so I turned mine back to my beer when I heard a sarcastic voice grunt, “Some way to celebrate a Saint, eh?” Turning my head to the right again, I was just about to peer over my shoulder when I caught a glimpse of green movement near my mug. Focusing on the movement through somewhat foggy, bloodshot eyes, I saw before me a leprechaun. Clad in the customary green top hat, white shirt, green vest and jacket, green knickers and white, knee-highs with black boots, the little figure motioned for me to move closer to my mug. With my eyeball nearly pressed to the mug, which must have looked like a giant insect eye from the other side of the bar, I’m sure the bartender began practicing his “no more Pal,” speech. Strangely, as this thought passed through my few remaining sober brain cells, I remained eye to eye with a redheaded and red-bearded leprechaun. Perhaps only one brain cell remained sober. One was enough however, to snap me back from the mug and catch a few amused smiles glancing my way. “Coffee?” bellowed the barkeep.

            Shaking my head no, I heard that little voice again, like something from oompa loompa land or Oz, “Never mind them. It’s not the beer. I’m here, you see me, so let’s get down to business,” the green figure demanded.

            “What business?” I heard myself asking, horrified when I realized I was talking in the direction of my mug, all the while becoming conscious of a growing crowd of listeners. What business have I with a green figment of my inebriated imagination, I wondered?

            Much to my chagrin, the green urchin secured my attention, as well as that of a growing party of sports-loving aficionados. “What is it saying?” came a query from a young blond female ND fan. “Shhhhhhhhhhh,” hushed the boiler backer. The tiny green figment perched itself on top of my mug and proceeded with his sermon.

            “None of you appear to understand the significance of St. Patrick’s Day so I’ve come here this eve to set the record straight. Someone give me a swig and I’ll elaborate,” commanded the leprechaun. I had to admit I knew nothing of the holiday other than that it seems the most honest holiday in that everyone looks forward to it as an excuse to drink beer. Christmas, Easter, Yom Kippur, all these holidays solemnly remind us of our divine origins.

            A thimble-sized mug slid down the bar and after a tiny sip and a clear of his throat, the leprechaun began. “Bon on March 17, around 385 AD, St. Patrick grew up in Britain. When he was 16 he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. After nearly six years he escaped to France where he began his studies for the Priesthood.”

            A cheese head sporting a Packer sweatshirt interjected, “Legend has it that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Is that true?”

            “On the contrary,” replied the leprechaun with rolling eyes, adding, “that was actually Barry White who charmed the snakes out o’ Ireland. O’ course he wasn’t Barry White incarnate as he is today, reincarnation and all, ya know? But that was his soul with the big bass voice just like it was depicted on the St. Patrick’s Day special episode of The Simpsons.” Laughter filtered through the crowd.

            “So when did St. Patrick return to Ireland?” asked a lady boiler.

            “In 432 AD Patrick returned to Ireland as a Missionary. He brought Latin Literature and the Roman alphabet, and converted the Irish folks to Christianity. ‘Course this put a damper on us leprechauns because the Irish stopped believin’ in us, but we found ways to occupy their imaginations,” said the leprechaun.

            A new member of the growing crowd, a tall gentleman elegantly dressed in black, queried, “According to legend, inside a small cave on the Isle of Lough Dreg, Patrick instructed local artisans to paint scenes of torment that depicted images of purgatory. Can you confirm this?”

            “Tis true, tis true, Laddy. And I have to say, it looks as though you’ve spent too much time in that cave yourself – get out and get some sun on that pasty white skin of yours.”

            Returning his attention to the ever-expanding crowd, the leprechaun continued, “The frightening images were drawn on the cave to remind those who entered to atone for their sins so they would not end up in purgatory.”

            Crowd enthusiasm mounted and someone blurted out, “How did the shamrock become part of St. Patrick’s Day?”

            The leprechaun responded, “People of the Catholic faith wear green and shamrocks on St. Patrick’s Day because Patrick used the green leaves on the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish.” Grinning ear to ear, the green urchin winked at me and then raised a question of his own, “What’s in your head lad?”

            My last sober brain cell had long since become intoxicated with green beer, the green imaginary figment of my imagination, and the green eyes of the blond ND gal that kept batting at me. Since thinking was no longer possible, I found myself speaking before thinking, or rather, blurting out, “How the hell did you get here? Where did you live? How long have you lived? And why show up in a sports bar of all places?”

            Working the crowd like a carnival barker, the Lilliputian jumped down from my mug, began pacing back and forth across the bar and addressing his crowd. “Around 1900 or so I moved to South Bend.” A cheer from the ND clan nearly knocked the leprechaun off the bar. None the less he continued, “I took up residence on the campus of Notre Dame. You know that “win one for the gipper” speech Knute Rockne gave? Well, I wrote that. Ya see, I came to ol’ Knute in a dream and gave ‘im the words to inspire his young troops to upset the might cadets of Army.”

            “How long were you at Notre Dame?” came a shout from the middle of the crowd. “I left the golden dome in the late 1950s. I decided to move to Boston. They had the Celtics with the shamrocks and all, ya know. So, I kinda made things happen to help those loyal, leprechaun-believin’ people win a bunch o’ championships. Coulda just as easily been Wilt who won so many titles, but we leprechauns bein’ wee folks, like to slay the Goliaths, so to speak.”

            A man in a Lakers jacket asked, “What happened in the 70s when the Celtics only won two championships?”

            “Well, I moved back to ND. Of course ‘twas I who put the lid on UCLA’s basket in the final four minutes when the Irish ended the Bruins’ 88-game winning streak. O’ course I made sure the Irish beat ‘Bama in the Sugar Bowl to win another National Title. And when the Irish football team came out in green jerseys to whip USC; that was me who whispered in Coach Parsegian’s ear to break out the green,” said the leprechaun.

            A gray haired man in a light blue jacket called out, “Where were you in 1981 when Al McGuire screamed ‘Mass is over, mass is over’ after Danny Ainge of BYU drove the length of the court and finger-rolled a shot over Orlando Woolridge to knock the Irish out of the NCAA tourney?”

            Head bowed, the leprechaun softly admitted, “Twas a hard blow for the Catholics, losing to the Mormons like that, but I was back in BeanTown by then. The men in green needed a little magic o’ their own.”

            A woman in a Celtics jacket screamed, “We didn’t need you. We had Larry Bird!”

            A crafty smile creased the little man’s face as he replied, “Now how do ya s’ppose Larry Bird stole that pass from Isaiah Thomas at the end of game 5 in 1987?”

            By this point the crowd had thinned yet one question remained. With a scholarship offer in hand, Ron Hunter approached the leprechaun and asked, “Is it true that every leprechaun hides a treasure of gold at the end of a rainbow?”

            Brushing the scholarship offer aside, the leprechaun chuckled and said, “Coach Hunter, why don’t ya be askin’ the Fightin’ Irish, or perhaps Red Aurbech. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some green beer to attend.

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