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Column: St. Patrick's Day is approaching, so it's time to find that Irish spirit

Editor's note: The following was first published approximately 30 years ago when the author wrote a "Happy Heart" column for the Daily Globe. It was also published on Feb. 25, 2009.

Editor’s note: The following was first published approximately 30 years ago when the author wrote a “Happy Heart” column for the Daily Globe. It was also published on Feb. 25, 2009.

WORTHINGTON - Some of our major cities in America have St. Patrick’s Day parades. In fact, closer to home, St. Paul is a very good example.

Many years ago, as we chatted with then-mayor George Lattimer, we were impressed with his excitement of the big day coming. A parade that “heralds the coming of spring,” as he puts it. If you are not Irish when it starts, you most certainly will be when it ends. In fact, you not only feel Irish - you may feel like joining in on the end of the parade as so many do.

The informal, free-flowing spirit of the people creates one pompous family. According to Lattimer, this is the biggest parade of its kind in the country. The first step in the daylong parade of love and life is attending mass at the beautiful, big cathedral in St. Paul. St. Paul has always been known for some of the great Irish families settling there.

Rosemount, south of St. Paul, has been promoting Leprechaun Days for many years. Visiting with Marie Jensen of Jensen Associates in Rosemount, we learned of their summer festival in July. The history of the Irish also was in this community, and the symbolism of such had the making for a super fun week-long festival. Hence the city chose Leprechaun Days. Sure, there is a parade with the high school’s Irish Band and its mascot, the Leprechaun! He won’t lead you to the pot o’ gold, though. You’ll have to find that yourself with the clues given at that time.

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While day-dreaming about all of the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day we may first think of Pat, or shamrocks. Aha, this brings to mind one of our very, very favorite subjects - that being elves, fairies, trolls etc. Look in the World Book Encyclopedia and, by gosh and by gorah, we found two pages of different types of fairies, dwarfs and pixies or what-have-yous. So hang on to your happy heart, because this is what it’s all about.

First of all, most of these little characters have a similar definition. They are small, delicate and have human qualities. A special trait is to possess magical powers. Some may cast spells, and others have the ability to take on different shapes of animals or humans.

Most fairies love to do good deeds, yet they love to be mischievous! All kinds love to dance. Fairies either live in Fairyland or in unusual places. For instance, some might live in water, such as bubbling spring waterfalls or mountain streams. Caves, holes in trees or hillsides are other common dwelling places.

It seems every old world country has its own type of imaginary people. “In Irish folklore, a leprechaun is a fairy in the form of a little old man who can reveal hidden treasures to anyone who catches him.” He is busy most of the time making shoes for other fairies. He really is very cross, but we usually picture him with a roguish smile and dressed in emerald green clothing. He must have a happy heart because very few ever catch him. People love the game of chance, and so we love to pretend we will find that “pot o’ gold.”

Along the British Isles, besides the Irish leprechaun we will find that the “Brownies” reside in Scotland. Brownies like to do housework. They are good and like to be helpful, useful and do good deeds. In England, “people believed they could keep Pixies away by wearing their coats inside out.” The English pixie also wore green clothing and was very handful. Pixies lived in the rocks, but came into the house to pinch the untidy maids or to steal children.

Traveling across the English Channel to France we will find the Goblins. “Goblins were fond of young girls and horses, but would beat naughty children. One of their favorite tricks was to tangle the hair of a horse’s mane so no one could comb it.”

No less than three types lived in Germany. “Nixies are German water fairies.” In old German folklore, Kobolds were called “Himzelmannchen.” “These goblins were cheerful and loved to repeat songs they had heard. Sometimes they pinched people from under the table until they would start quarreling.” Also in Germany, you might find the noisy ghosts or poltergeist. “They rocked chairs, made pictures fall, broke dishes and threw each other into open wells. Then they made loud gurgling noises until rescued.”

All across Europe were Nobles Fairies. Some believed to be children of Greek and Roman mythology, the Dryads and Nymphs. People never saw these fairies who loved to dance in the moonlight. Still, in the morning, there would be dark green circles on the grassy areas where they presumably danced all night. (Now we believe this where a spaceship might have landed.)

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Yes, yes, my tale is getting further away from Ireland, but we must explore the Scandinavian Elves. They also liked to dance, but only to mournful music. The ugly dwarf of the Scandinavia is the troll. The troll hates noise, and the German poltergeist loves noise. Strange things are happening on this typewriter!

Japan has the “Ko-no-hanasakuya-hime” that causes the trees to bloom. We could use her right about now!

China has the “Hsien” who can either be a “wise mountain man or a playful elf.” Maybe this is where we get the businessmen who work hard and play hard.

Just think, we haven’t even covered gremlins, gnomes, nissens, Peter Pan, Puck, Jack Frost or Rumpelstiltskin.

So … with all this information at hand we are sure we know why the Irish Leprechaun has such a twinkle in his eye and why the Irish people have such a happy heart. In our travels we did not find one other country that sports a green pin with their elf saying, “Hi, Kiss Me I’m Irish!”

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