Why do Americans love leprechauns? These short little men with ginger beards and black-buckled shoes have become famous in America, on St. Patrick’s Day and throughout the year. Even though the little leprechaun hails from Ireland, his popularity and influence reaches people in America and around the globe.
How did this reputable little fellow become so popular? In fact, the leprechaun has very humble beginnings. According to Irish folklore, leprechauns are humble fairy cobblers who make shoes for the elves. However, leprechauns have a secret stash of cash from all their shoe-making profits that humans can wish to access if they find a leprechaun. TIME magazine tells us that leprechauns store this secret pot of gold in forests, mountains, and rocks. If a lucky human just happens to be walking near as hears the leprechaun’s small hammer making shoe, they may be able to catch a leprechaun.
Tradition tells us if a human is able to catch a leprechaun, he will grant the human three wishes. However, TIME also states that leprechauns are known for being tricky and witty, and they have fooled humans many times into not getting their wishes. If you even take your eye off a leprechaun for even one second, they are known to escape back into the wild.
During St. Patrick’s Day and year-round the tale of the leprechaun has assimilated into American culture. The power that leprechauns have to be able to grant humans three desires, and the thrill of the chase to find a leprechaun are reasons that I think make the leprechaun a part of our culture today. Even now, the influence of leprechauns can be seen in the American culture in a variety of ways.
One of the biggest contributors to the fame of the Irish leprechaun can be seen in the company, General Mills. General mills says in it’s media files that Lucky the leprechaun was born in 1964 and pasted on the box of lucky charms cereal with a claim to customers about lucky charms: “‘Tis a charmin’ cereal … simply charmin’!” The Taste of General Mills blog states that Lucky Charms cereal has had Lucky the Leprechaun as it’s mascot for over 50 years. And Lucky still makes his appearance on Lucky Charms cereal boxes today.
Leprechauns have also been a good mascot for sports teams. A recent USA Today article stated that the Norte Dame Fighting Irish Leprechaun mascot was forecasted to be “the biggest celebrity” of the BCS national championship game this past January. The mascot, a 5’ 7’’, 145 pound senior named Brenton states that he receives, “an untold amount of photographs, especially on campus during a game day.” The article goes on to say that Brenton’s leprechaun costume is, “one of the most recognizable mascots in all of sport[s].”
Leprechauns also feature prominently in charity events. Events such as the Leprechaun Plunge use Leprechaun name to hold a March event to raise money for selected charities as people plunge into the water. Also, many runs use the word Leprechaun. The Leprechaun Chase, or the Lucky Leprechaun 5K have become titles for runs happening around St. Patricks Day.
Clearly, the luck of the Irish leprechaun is still present in our culture today. As we get closer to St. Patrick’s Day, remember the influence that the leprechaun has on American culutre – and never cease trying to catch one, you might just find your own pot of gold.