If You Build It, They Will Come

Your soundtrack, m’dears.

When I lived in Arcata, several lifetimes ago, I had an experience on St. Patrick’s Day that changed the holiday for me, forever.

I was skipping home after listening to some incredible Irish folk music at Cafe Mokka (Finnish Country Sauna and Tubs…oh my heart still swoons for that place!), and I was almost home when I saw a neighbor I really liked. As I passed, I called out “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”. She frowned at me and said sourly,

“St. Patrick killed the fairies. I don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.”.

I felt embarrassed and did an immediate tail tuck. I was pagan, I loved fairies…how did I not know about St. Patrick? Was my neighbor right? Was I celebrating the Nazi equivalent of the unseen realms? World flipped on its head, I spent the next few days doing research…at the library. This was in the time before the internet after all. What I discovered soured me too.

Fortunately for you, you DO have the internet, and you can read about what I learned with this article. I can also give you the nutshell…St. Patrick was part of how Christianity supplanted the ancient druidic faith in Ireland. As for the serpents and driving them into the sea, we’re talking metaphor here. Serpents = pagans.

So for years I have refused to wear green on Padraig’s day, and while I would never be grumpy to someone else’s festivities, I can also say that a glass of green beer has never passed these lips. But what do I do when City Hall is illuminated as brightly as a fresh shamrock and my daughter is wondering why everyone’s talking about leprachauns all of a sudden? How do I take back this holiday for her and for our family?

An easy “in” was those afore mentioned leprachauns. I may get crotchety about pagan suppression, but faeries…well, we all know how I feel about faeries. I had come across several ideas for “Leprachaun Traps”, but couldn’t really figure out the outcome…I mean, obviously no leprachaun would be found in the morning. No, not because they don’t exist, silly. Because they’re too smart to get caught! And then I landed on the perfect idea…

A leprachaun lounge. A fairy hotel. Complete with a soft place to sleep, lots of food and drink, and even some fool’s gold. Leaving out offerings for the sidh is a long standing Irish tradition, and if they left a little something for the children in the morning, well…it wouldn’t be a total lie. Fern will never see a “real” Santa Claus, but her chances are greatly improved on seeing one of the little Good Neighbors at some point in her life.

First we laid out our literal building blocks and chose the site. Immediately, someone showed up to supervise.

Jeff and Leo take instruction from a messenger of the fae.

My little friend from last year is back! She hung out and watched us the whole time.

Then construction began.






Fools gold in the bucket was replaced the next morning by pixie dust.

A fine feast was prepared.

We offered traditional libations…whole raw milk, beer and brandy. Alas, we had no whiskey.


All done!



We went upstairs, and after dinner, there was this.





The camera catches what happens on a sugar high.

Nighttime stories included this.


Next morning, I was up before the birds. I crept downstairs, hoping to discover the house wrecked and the evidence of raccoons. A few blocks had fallen down, but otherwise everything was still intact. I had secretly bought chocolate peanut butter bites, wrapped in gold and silver foil the day before. I arranged them in a pyramid and then emptied out the containers of food, as well as the bucket of fool’s gold. In it’s place, I put fine glitter…pixie dust…that most coveted of wish granting magical items.

The kids peeked out the window above as soon as they awoke. “Hey! I see some of the blocks fell down! And the gold is gone too!”. They ran downstairs and…were a little dumbstruck that…the faeries came!


But they quickly recovered and got down to business. Sugar consumption!


And that is how we found the luck of the Irish.

How do you celebrate St. Patty’s Day? Are you having cornbeef hash this morning?



6 thoughts on “If You Build It, They Will Come

  1. Yesterday, we had a really hearty dinner, a special dessert (glüten-free chocolate chip cookies!), and played cards in the toasty living room. Not because it was St. Patty’s Day. Just because. :]

    I loved reading about your St. P’s proceedings. Imagining how excited Fern and Leo must have been makes my heart giggle.

    You would really like Season 3, Episode 8 of Ghost Hunters. They conduct an investigation at the site of some ruins in Ireland, which also happens to be on a fairy rath. Some of their footage makes my whole body prickle. It was seriously spooky.

  2. OH! There’s also folklore here regarding entities I suspect are the Good Neighbors. They’re called “Cin” (pronounced “gin”), and are said to live in a parallel dimension. Apparently one thing you’re always supposed to take care of is to announce yourself if you need to pee outside at night. If you accidentally pee on one, it’s considered very rude and very dangerous.

    A lot of people also have personal stories regarding the Cin. There’s a woman from my dad’s town who was allegedly married to a Cin. She went around telling people that she was married to one, and that if she didn’t get home by a certain time, he would be very upset with her. She also had a human husband… kind of a loony one, I know.

    And my father has a relative who could see Cinler (the “ler” on the end of the word just makes it plural in Turkish). There was one incident where she went to her husband’s shop — he was a tailor — and while she was waiting for him, told him that there were some entities with them in the room. He didn’t believe her, so she conveyed a message from their company: If her husband didn’t stop using his sewing machine, they would break it. He didn’t stop, and his wife suddenly was dragged out of the store by forces unseen. They took her all the way to the edge of town into the woods, and her husband went and retrieved her.

    Strange stories, but something interesting to think about, right?

  3. Hi! So this post speaks to my soul and I feel the need to explain why in a rather lengthy comment:
    A), I had never looked into the “real” story of Saint Patrick. I was raised in a catholic family and, even when I went full agnostic as a teenager, still had it in my head that all saints were, well, saintly. Not so in this case. My only problem with religion arises when it is imposed on others; people should believe what they want to believe, in whatever gives them hope and comfort. Thus I have a big problem with missionaries, and it appears that St. Patrick (unfortunately) was the worst kind. Sigh. Thanks for bringing this to light.
    B), Best alternative way to celebrate this holiday, ever. Building fairy homes and finding ways to bring them to life were an integral part of my childhood and those of my little sisters. I admittedly try and steer them more in the direction of fairies and nature spirits than towards any kind of god. I think it better feeds the soul, encouraging independent thought, imagination, creativity, and awareness of oneself and the world around us.

    There it is 🙂 Thanks for writing this!

  4. i am with juliana on all accounts, and so ashamed to say…i had NO IDEA! in fact, darin and i were wondering just *what* st patricks day really is. we thought it was a day to celebrate the irish in america, similar to cinco de mayo. i am dismayed to discover the truth, but thank you for the enlightening. i will carry on with your leprachaun tradition and hopefully build a trap with lucy next year. you are ever inspiring dear friend!

  5. Mary! Yet again you nail it on the head (seriously, can you somehow read minds Trans-Atlantically??)… I have been having EXACTLY the same struggle with Paddy’s Day and I have been musing on how to approach it with my girls. I was brought up with the popular myth. In Ireland it is ingrained and unavoidable. I only questioned it in more recent years… and… yeah…I haven’t really celebrated it in over 10 years.

    Another factor that has affected my negativity towards the festival has been that I have had to work on Paddy’s day, every year, for the past 10 years (or more) too, organising a party for Irish (Gaelic) speaking families. That has meant that I have been surrounded by families having fun, while I have been apart from mine, who have been having fun elsewhere.

    Yet another thing that I REALLY can’t stand about St. Patricks day is the emphasis on drinking alcohol. I find it really embarrassing to be Irish at this time of year . On every street there are drunk teenagers wearing green thigh high socks and hotpants in the freezing weather, throwing up in a gutter, or bleary-eyed men sizing each other up and gunning for a fight. I always feel on edge going anywhere and I hate the international cliché of the drunken’ Irish, because the reality of it is so ugly. The drinking culture in this country is really fucked up. (excuse my language)

    This year, I deliberately didn’t do anything with my girls. We didn’t cut out shamrocks or bake lurid green foodstuffs (actually, our official national colour is blue – not that that’s widely known, even in Ireland!). In fact, I didn’t tell them about the festival at all. We did go to the funfair in our town the day before, and I went to work as usual on the day itself. Devo had band practice and the girls hung out with their grandmother until he was finished.

    All that said, I really like your leprechaun/fairy hotel idea. That could be something we could adopt/adapt next year. (although, believe it or not Leprechaun’s enjoy more popularity in America than they do in Ireland!) I like the idea of sort of sticking it to Patrick… yeah, you might have tried to get rid of us pagan snakes, but we’re still here!!

    Sorry for the essay/rant…but just one last thing… it’s St. Patrick’s Day, Patrick’s Day, Paddy’s Day or Lá Fhéile Pádraig… but NEVER “Patty’s Day”. Not in Ireland anyway 😉

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