15 Lucky Things You Probably Didn't Know About Leprechauns

Like cats, leprechauns are often depicted as solitary creatures.
Like cats, leprechauns are often depicted as solitary creatures.
Enzo Nguyen@Tercer Ojo Photography/iStock via Getty Images

In America, the bearded sprites known as leprechauns have become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture. Here are some lucky facts about Ireland’s mythical beings.

1. Leprechauns are fairies.

Although they might not match your initial idea of what a fairy is, leprechauns are considered a part of the family. Like other fairies, they’re small in size and prone to mischief. The miniature men are said to be descendants of Tuatha Dé Danann, a group of magical beings that served under the Gaelic goddess Danu. According to legend, this mythical group lived in Ireland long before humans inhabited the land.

2. There aren’t any female leprechauns.

As a way of explaining why there is no record of female leprechauns (and therefore no way to procreate in the traditional sense), some sources claim leprechauns are the unwanted children of the fairy community. As a result, leprechauns are described as grouchy, untrusting, and solitary creatures.

3. There’s a leprechaun colony in Portland, Oregon.

A green plant in a tiny plot of dirt
The world's smallest park doubles as a wee leprechaun habitat.
mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

After noticing a small circular hole in concrete where a light pole was meant to be, a journalist named Dick Fagan took it upon himself to make use of it. After adding flowers and a tiny sign that proclaimed it the “world’s smallest park,” Fagan began to write stories about the spot in a newspaper column. He detailed the adventures of a small leprechaun colony, led by a leader that only the journalist could see. The modest garden, called Mill Ends Park, became an official city park on St. Patrick’s Day in 1976. Over the years, contributors have added miniature additions like a swimming pool complete with a diving board.

4. Leprechaun means “small body.”

Leprechaun is believed to be a variation of the Middle Irish word, lūchorpān means small and corp means body.

5. Sometimes, leprechauns are red.

Although the little Irishmen are now synonymous with the color green, they weren’t always. Early accounts of leprechauns describe them as wearing red and sporting a variety of hats, often three-cornered.

6. Leprechauns have a troublesome cousin called the clurichaun.

Also sporting red is the rambunctious clurichaun, a mythical creature that shares many characteristics with the leprechaun. These beings are always described as drunk and surly. They are often seen in stories riding animals at night, or clearing out entire wine cellars. Some accounts explain these troublemakers as the night-form of leprechauns; after a hard day’s work, the bearded fairies get so tipsy they become an entirely different species. Other stories describe them as a close relative to the leprechaun.

7. Leprechauns are the bankers and cobblers of the fairy world.

Leprechaun hat with gold chocolate coins on vintage style green wood
For leprechauns, making shoes has proven to be a very lucrative career.
MillefloreImages/iStock via Getty Images

Leprechauns are known for their money, and there’s apparently a lot of it in the cobbling business. Since they spend most of their time alone, the tiny green men pour all their energy into crafting shoes. They’re said to always have a hammer and shoe in hand. According to legend, you can hear them coming by the telltale tapping sound they make.

While some stories attribute the leprechauns’ wealth to the fine shoes they make, others say they protect the treasure of the entire fairy world. One tale says leprechauns act like bankers to make sure the frivolous fairies don’t spend all their gems at once.

8. Leprechauns are sneaky.

Wherever there are leprechauns, there are stories of people trying to steal their gold. The rule is, if you’re lucky enough to catch a leprechaun, you can never take your eyes off him or he’ll disappear. In one tale, a man managed to catch a leprechaun and forced the fairy to divulge the secret location of his treasure. The leprechaun reluctantly pointed to a tree. Delighted, the man tied a red bandana around the branch and ran home to get a shovel. When he returned, he was dismayed to find all the trees were sporting the same red scarf.

9. But leprechauns can be generous if you’re kind to them.

Constantly being chased for one’s gold—or cereal— can take a toll on any fairy’s demeanor. As a result, leprechauns are distrustful and secretive. This attitude doesn’t mean they won’t loosen the purse strings if touched by a bit of kindness. One legend mentions a down-on-his-luck nobleman who offered a leprechaun a ride on his horse. In return, the man returned to his crumbling castle to find it filled to the ceiling with gold.

10. Someone claims to have found the remains of an actual leprechaun.

Green hillside with water and a blue sky in the background
Unfortunately, you're more likely to spot sheep than leprechauns on Slieve Foye.
Eric Jones, Geograph // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1989, a local businessman in Carlingford, Ireland, claimed to have found evidence of a real leprechaun on a mountain called Slieve Foye. He said that after hearing a scream near the wishing well, he found bones, a tiny suit, and gold coins near scorched earth. The evidence is now displayed behind a glass case for visitors to come see.

As a result, a new tradition was born: During an annual leprechaun hunt, 100 ceramic leprechauns are hidden on the mountain. Tourists come every year to try to hunt down the little green statues. Hunters need to buy a 6€ “hunter’s license” beforehand. In 2019—the 30th anniversary of the leprechaun bones’ discovery and the 10th anniversary of their official European Union recognition—fortune-seekers abandoned their mountain search and instead scoured the town for hidden leprechaun pots, one of which contained a real bar of gold valued at €1200.

11. Leprechauns are protected under European law.

Apparently, there are 236 leprechauns that still live in the caverns of Slieve Foye. In 2009, the EU granted heritage status to the remaining wee people; they now have their own protected sanctuary nestled in the mountain. The directive also protects the animals and flora in the area to help keep the biodiversity of the land safe.

12. Some accounts say leprechauns can live underwater.

Illustration of a heavily bearded man underwater
Why swim with the fishes when you can swim with the leprechauns?
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The earliest known folktale to feature a leprechaun comes from the Middle Ages. In it, Fergus mac Léti, the King of Ulster, falls asleep by the beach. He awakens to find three lúchorpáin (“little bodies”) attempting to drag him into their undersea lair. The king captures them, but releases them after he is promised three wishes. This story suggests the mythical men are sea-dwellers, but modern takes on the myth do not often include this lifestyle detail.

13. Leprechauns might have a divine heritage.

Some sources say leprechauns are derivatives of the Irish deity Lugh, god of the Sun and of arts and crafts. After the rise of Christianity, Lugh’s importance was diminished, and he was demoted to a shoe-making folklore character known as Lugh Chromain.

14. You can pretend to be a leprechaun for a good cause.

In March, there are marathons all over the country that encourage the participants to dress like leprechauns. The festive runners help raise money for charity while getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

15. You can make your own leprechaun trap.

DIY leprechaun trap with gold coins, rainbow ,and green ladder
Shiny things and Pinterest-worthy crafting skills are allegedly all you’ll need to catch a leprechaun.
Detry26/iStock via Getty Images

Making a leprechaun trap is a great activity to share with your children this St. Patrick’s Day. All you need to get started is something shiny to lure the little men. The traps can be simple as a shoebox, or elaborate as your family can imagine. Although no one has caught anything yet—that we know of—it doesn’t hurt to try!

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There's more than one Independence Day in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced enslaved people were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation. Here's what you should know about the historic event and celebration.

1. Enslaved people had already been emancipated—they just didn’t know it.

The June 19 announcement came more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. So technically, from the Union's perspective, the 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were already free—but none of them were aware of it, and no one was in a rush to inform them.

2. There are many theories as to why the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t enforced in Texas.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

News traveled slowly back in those days—it took Confederate soldiers in western Texas more than two months to hear that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Still, some have struggled to explain the 30-month gap between Lincoln’s proclamation and the enslaved people’s freedom, leading to speculation that some Texans suppressed the announcement. Other theories include that the original messenger was murdered to prevent the information from being relayed or that the federal government purposely delayed the announcement to Texas to get one more cotton harvest out of the enslaved workers. But the real reason is probably that Lincoln's proclamation simply wasn't enforceable in the rebel states before the end of the war.

3. The announcement actually urged freedmen and freedwomen to stay with their former owners.

General Order No. 3, as read by General Granger, said:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

4. What followed was known as “the scatter.”


Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr // No known copyright restrictions

Most freedpeople weren't terribly interested in staying with the people who had enslaved them, even if pay was involved. In fact, some were leaving before Granger had finished making the announcement. What followed became known as "the scatter,," when droves of former enslaved people left the state to find family members or more welcoming accommodations in northern regions.

5. Not all enslaved people were freed instantly.

Texas is a large state, and General Granger's order (and the troops needed to enforce it) were slow to spread. According to historian James Smallwood, many enslavers deliberately suppressed the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. In July 1867 there were two separate reports of enslaved people being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose enslaved people were only freed after his hanging in 1868.

6. Freedom created other problems.

Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners weren't too eager to part with what they felt was their property. When freedpeople tried to leave, many of them were beaten, lynched, or murdered. "They would catch [freed slaves] swimming across [the] Sabine River and shoot them," a former enslaved person named Susan Merritt recalled.

7. There were limited options for celebrating.

A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
2C2KPhotography, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When freedpeople tried to celebrate the first anniversary of the announcement a year later, they were faced with a problem: Segregation laws were expanding rapidly, and there were no public places or parks they were permitted to use. So, in the 1870s, former enslaved people pooled together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land, which they deemed "Emancipation Park." It was the only public park and swimming pool in the Houston area that was open to African Americans until the 1950s.

8. Juneteenth celebrations waned for several decades.

It wasn't because people no longer wanted to celebrate freedom—but, as Slate so eloquently put it, "it's difficult to celebrate freedom when your life is defined by oppression on all sides." Juneteenth celebrations waned during the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People's March planned by Martin Luther King Jr. was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. The march brought Juneteenth back to the forefront, and when march participants took the celebrations back to their home states, the holiday was reborn.

9. Texas was the first state to declare Juneteenth a state holiday.

Texas deemed the holiday worthy of statewide recognition in 1980, becoming the first state to do so.

10. Juneteeth is still not a federal holiday.

Though most states now officially recognize Juneteenth, it's still not a national holiday. As a senator, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday, though it didn't pass then or while he was president. One supporter of the idea is 93-year-old Opal Lee—in 2016, when she was 90, Lee began walking from state to state to draw attention to the cause.

11. The Juneteenth flag is full of symbolism.

a mock-up of the Juneteenth flag
iStock

Juneteenth flag designer L.J. Graf packed lots of meaning into her design. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.

12. Juneteenth traditions vary across the U.S.

As the tradition of Juneteenth spread across the U.S., different localities put different spins on celebrations. In southern states, the holiday is traditionally celebrated with oral histories and readings, "red soda water" or strawberry soda, and barbecues. Some states serve up Marcus Garvey salad with red, green, and black beans, in honor of the black nationalist. Rodeos have become part of the tradition in the southwest, while contests, concerts, and parades are a common theme across the country.