IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Are leprechauns the new Elf on the Shelf?

Leprechauns are making mischief in homes across America ... and some parents feel like they've been tricked.
Leprechaun and Elf on the Shelf
Leprechauns: They're mean, green, parent-torturing machines.Getty Images / Courtesy Elf on the Shelf

Editor’s note: This story may contain spoilers for prying little eyes!

In the same way the Elf on the Shelf greatly increased the Christmas creep, forcing parents to add additional stress to our jam-packed December schedules, leprechauns seem poised to become the parent nemesis of March.

I, for one, am not going down without a fight.

I’m besties with Santa Claus. I can handle the tooth fairy. I’m not pleased that Halloween is now extends through entire month of October, but I costume my disdain. I draw the line at Elf on the Shelf.

But I really didn’t know what I had done when I welcomed leprechauns into my home.

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day in 2019, a leprechaun "peed" in our toilet and forgot to flush. My kids have not stopped talking about it since. It is now a thing. A leprechaun stops for a potty break in our home every March. And thus, I inadvertently surrendered more of my precious free time to holiday magic making.

Why did I decide to torture myself for years to come? Well, my kids were very young and impressionable at the time — they were just 4 and 2. I probably saw something on Pinterest and knew I had green food coloring on hand. Two seconds of work for two smiles of delight. Little did I know that I had crossed the threshold into the Leprechaun Industrial Complex.

A quick online search will introduce you to more ideas for leprechaun home invasions than you could ever imagine. There are leprechauns leaving footprints around your house, leprechauns turning milk green, leprechauns making a mess, leprechauns playing pranks, leprechauns scattering gold coins. You can also personalize your leprechaun by naming it.

And don't even get me started on leprechaun traps and the myriad ways you can design and build them.

Leprechaun hijinks are no longer confined to St. Patrick’s Day Eve. Those Irish rascals are arriving earlier and earlier each year, raising the stakes on creative mischief. Is there a way out of this green nightmare? Or should I just shamrock and roll with the punches?

What are parents saying?

For those parents who are really into leprechauning, I say, "Sláinte!"

"Leprechauns showed up at our house two Sundays ago and have been causing mayhem," says father of two, Mike Newman. "They’ve changed all the lights in my house to green bulbs, turned the Cheerios into Lucky Charm marshmallows, burned through two traps and last night I found schematics to dye my dog's hair green. It's been a real problem."

Clearly reveling in the chaos, he adds, "This has also all cost me several hundred dollars and will likely cost my children thousands of dollars in psychiatric bills later in life. These leprechauns are no good."

I am duly impressed ... and also exhausted just thinking about it. A few other parents agreed with me.

"The leprechaun definitely does not visit our house, nor does the Elf," says Meghan Holt, a mom of three from Boston, Massachusetts. "I'm not passionate about it. I just dismiss it."

Kate Wright, a mom of three from Grand Rapids, Michigan, says that her family doesn't do any of the "auxiliary holidays" her kids might celebrate at school. "Frankly, I lack the bandwidth to plan it out the month in advance that is required," she says.

However, a good friend of Wright's "does all of this for her kids." She has a busy job, three young kids (two of whom are twins) and still manages to go above and beyond in the holiday magic department. "I am in awe of how much magic she makes for her babies. I don't know how she does it," Wright says.

Even so, Wright isn't sweating the small stuff. "My mom didn't do it when I was growing up," she adds. "I feel like I turned out fine."

What do Irish parents do?

To find out if I really should be making leprechaun magic for my kids, I turned to an authoritative source: a mom of two who moved to New Jersey from Ireland two years ago. (And yes, her accent is delightful.)

Dublin native Amie O'Reilly hails from a country that has a "Designated Area of Protection for Flora, Fauna, Wild Animals and Little People" (a.k.a. leprechauns) from the European Union Habitats Directive. So she is obviously an expert.

In Ireland, she explains, St. Patrick's Day is treated as a national holiday. School is cancelled, businesses are closed and Dublin dyes its river green.

"We usually go to the parade in the morning. That'll go on all day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a whole day thing," O’Reilly says. "Some will go to the carnival, and then we go to the pub and drink Guinness while the kids play. And then we go home and eat ham and cabbage."

O'Reilly's family does have an Elf on the Shelf, which is a "really big thing" in Ireland, though she has not introduced the leprechaun (yet). She says she’d be open to leprechauning if her kids happened to show an interest in hosting (or trapping) a small mischief maker.

O’Reilly was actually in Dublin for their Mother’s Day when I contacted her, so she had a chance to ask Irish friends and family if they have leprechauns visiting their homes in March.

Among her friends, she says, shrugging, “It’s just never really been a thing. I was saying this to my husband last night, and he says, ‘It’s definitely more American than it is Irish.’”