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The Leprechaun let loose in Greenwich

March 20, 2019

The leprechaun. What is going on here?

Let’s review: Every March a little green man runs around, creating mischief for no apparent reason. There is a rainbow and a pot of gold involved, as well as children trying to catch him — which is very hard to do.

That gets children downright hysterical. They amp up into a frenzy and whip around wreaking havoc, leaving everyone baffled in their wake.

“They are a real problem, Mom … I don’t know how they do it,” my 7-year-old George informs me, amazed he has been outfoxed by a geeky green guy.

We are not Irish. I wasn’t hip to green dye in the toilet or little green footprints around the house on St. Patrick’s Day. Listen, I can barely handle the demonic Christmas Elf-on-the-Shelf, who is downright catatonic compared to this verdant freak.

At my house, we didn’t do any of this stuff growing up. When I asked my husband, Ian, he answered dryly, “Jews don’t do leprechauns.”

But you can’t avoid leprechaun-mania in Greenwich. It dominated our dinner conversation pretty much all last week. One classmate’s toilet was stained green, and another’s cookies were left out — and found half-eaten the next morning. The kids’ school set leprechaun traps in the media center and organized a hunt for gold coins.

Was everyone in Greenwich suddenly Irish?

Several years back, a Greenwich preschool teacher warned her students that leprechauns would arrive in their classroom and things might get a little crazy. There would be gold candy coins left in shoes, pranks all over the classroom and if you were fast enough, you might be able to catch a leprechaun.

The kids were breathless with excitement.

The next day rolled around and within 10 minutes the classroom went absolutely wild. Kids ran in every direction, screaming and searching for little tricksters while finding candy coins and pranks everywhere.

One little boy got concerned, went to the back room and called 911 to report a “leprechaun problem.” Several minutes later, he called again. “Listen, you better bring backup,” he told the police.

“They had it on the recorded line, it was so awesome,” my friend told me.

The Greenwich Police Department went down to the nursery school, in good humor.

“We hear you have a leprechaun problem here,” they said as the teacher opened the door. The story has been lore ever since.

So what are they? Here’s how Wikipedia breaks it down:

A leprechaun (Irish: leipreachán/luchorpán) is a type of fairy of the Aos Sí in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If captured by a human, they often grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Like other Irish fairies, leprechauns may be derived from the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Aside from deciding to name our next pet Tuatha Dé Danann, this didn’t get us anywhere. A solitary little bearded man with a coat smiling and offering a little mischief? Are you kidding me? That’s what you tell your child to run from, not try to catch.

So I took it to the experts, George and his best friend, Billy, both second-graders, to get some perspective. I videoed them on my iPhone for historical purposes.

George: “Well, first off, they are small.”

Billy: “Yeah, really small. Like the size of a DVD case.”

George: “No bigger, like up to my leg. Mom, I think of them kind of like a toddler.”

Billy: “Yeah, like a more intelligent, naughty, out-of-control toddler.”

George: “It’s all about the pot of gold. Tommy watched the movie.”

Billy: “Well, it was an animated movie, so … you know. But if leprechauns don’t have their pot of gold, they like have bad luck. It’s not like our lives … because if they don’t have their pot of gold it’s really bad.”

“Are leprechauns nice?” I asked George.

“No. Well, no one really knows. They are tricksters but no one knows what they really are. I mean, maybe someone we know is one. We just don’t know basically. I mean maybe I am one, Mom,” George offered with enthusiasm.

“You are not a leprechaun, George,” I said. Of that, at least I’m sure. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Although it’s clear that Greenwich loves its leprechauns.

“It’s clear a LOT of people in Greenwich found the pot of gold,” a friend told me. “But the jury is still out on the rainbow part.”

Here’s hoping you find yours.

Claire Tisne Haft is a former publishing and film executive, raising her family in Greenwich while working on a freelance basis on books and films.