Be Careful What You Wish For: The Luck of the Irish and Other Myths and Misunderstandings


Next Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, and did you know that the holiday most of society  associates with happy, playful leprechauns, four leaf clovers, and pots of gold is marred by misconceptions?

In conducting research for this blog post, I have learned a number of interesting facts about the origin of St. Patrick’s Day and the evolution of its traditions. For example, the leprechauns of Irish mythology were shoemakers for Irish fairies and were miserable, alcoholic, rude elves. Over time, Irish Americans adapted the leprechauns’ character traits to redefine them as loveable, mischievous little imps.

Another surprising discovery was that the phrase, “the luck of the Irish,” is actually somewhat ironic. The Irish people, on the whole, have endured a great deal of hardship over their history, including attacks, colonization, exploitation, starvation, and many other difficult obstacles. During the late 19th century, when many successful gold and silver miners were Irish or Irish American birth, it was widely perceived that these men obtained their wealth by sheer, dumb luck, rather than intelligence. The newfound success of these Irishmen led to the popularization of the expression, “the luck of the Irish.”

As an eternal optimist, I was relieved to learn that, although the shamrock was never proven as a tool used by St. Patrick to teach the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, it was never disproven either. Since the 18th century, the shamrock has been incorporated into the logos of Irish sports teams and government organizations.

It isn’t a bad idea for your company to wish luck upon your end users and employees, but be careful about how you communicate this message. Cute ideas for items to promote as “lucky” include rabbit foot keychains (faux rabbit fur, of course!), clover stress balls, imprinted socks, or even custom pens featuring your brand’s name and logo.

And whatever adventure you find yourself undertaking on St. Patty’s Day, I hope that you find your own “pot o’ gold!”


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