Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Favorite St. Patrick's Day

The first Sign of the Apocalypse was the Elf on the Shelf.

Okay, this may be a teensy exaggeration (Me? Overstate?) but this morning I read a HuffPost essay that resonated so strongly with me that I may or may not have shouted "Exactly!" and thrown my hands into the air in agreement.

The essay was titled "Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch?" and it is truth multiplied by oh-yeah.

We are going nuts celebrating holidays these days, and oh, the pressure on parents. Especially on parents, such as I was a decade ago, who are barely holding it together to get their children to school and do not have the TIME or the TALENT or the INCLINATION to make every holiday on the calendar a magical moment for their wee ones. We are the parents who consider matched socks a victory and simultaneous bedtimes an impossible dream.

But then along came the internet. Of all the ills the internet has perpetrated on society, I consider the Elf on the Shelf the most insidious. Back in the olden days, when a threat of Santa watching was enough to cow a rebellious child into submission, the Elf is an actual thing, a thing that must be tended with imagination and physical effort at a time of the year when imagination and physical effort are stretched their thinnest.

When I was a kid we did one thing for St. Patrick's Day: We wore green. And if we saw someone not wearing green, we pinched them with great enthusiasm. Never mind that we weren't Irish, we were all Erin-Go-Bragh-ers when it came to our roles as green detectives. Our parents did not hide gold coins or set a leprechaun trap; pinching was sufficient to prove our solidarity with the Irish.

The year I was a third grader, my teacher stuck a shamrock to her bulletin board and told us there was a number written behind the shamrock. The person who guessed closest to the number would get a special prize. Now, this was a big deal. Back in those days participation prizes hadn't been invented yet. If there was a contest someone won, and for everyone else, well, better luck next time. I can still see that shamrock, cut out in Mrs. Francis's precise scissor work and tantalizingly pinned at eight-year-old eye level.

And I knew what the number was.

I knew it! I didn't cheat and pull the shamrock away (the wrath of God was a distant second to the wrath of Mrs. Francis when it came to classroom sinning and I could only imagine the hailstones that would rain down if I cheated) but I knew in my heart of hearts that the number was 17. It was St. Patrick's Day, it was March 17, and the number had to be 17.

I carefully wrote my guess on a slip of paper and turned it in. Then Mrs. Francis announced at the end of the day that the winning number was...17! I wasn't the least bit surprised, but I was over-the-moon excited to accept the prize of a green Bic pen, one of the round-topped variety that is so old-fashioned even Google images doesn't have a picture of it.

I tell this story because it has been 52 years since I held that green pen in my hand, and I still remember the soaring triumph of the moment, the calm certainty of victory and the feeling of destiny in accepting the prize.

Would I have been as thrilled if that morning I had already checked the leprechaun trap, searched for gold coins, eaten green pancakes, and looked for a rainbow on the porch? I don't think so.

So, parents, I implore you. Tone it down! Back off on the holiday hoopla and self-imposed stress. Your children won't miss it and your blood pressure will thank me.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go have a bit of my Pi Day pie and pinch a non-green-wearer with great enthusiasm. It's St. Patrick's Day!


  1. YES. Yes, yes, yes. We do None of the Things: No elf on the whatever, no green eggs and ham on Dr. Seuss's birthday (because that is now a Thing), no $50 APIECE Halloween costumes. This morning my kids asked if they should wear green, and I said, "Sure. Whatever." Then they asked if I was going to wear green, and I told them I couldn't care less about ridiculous holidays, and made us all blueberry pancakes because I wanted some. Somehow they still love me.

  2. Yes, yes, yes! from me too. When Emma's teachers had leprechauns visiting the classroom, she didn't understand why they didn't visit at home also. Really, I was lucky to make it out of the house wearing clothes --I did not have time to turn milk green or hide stuff. I feel the same way about Easter --when I was a kid we got some chocolate and hunted for eggs. Now kids get Easter baskets that rival their Christmas! I am glad that Emma has outgrown a lot of that stuff now, so now I don't even have to feel guilty about not doing it :-)

  3. AMEN!
    (I have made my older children promise that when/if they have children, that they will not do the elf thing or any of these other strange modern day holiday shenanigans.)