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Today is May 13, 2021

National Leprechaun Day

The origins of the leprechaun myth

The tricolor flag. A pint of Guinness. Bagpipes. Each of these things are symbols of St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates the patron saint of Ireland every year on March 17.

While each of the aforementioned symbols is tangible, one popular image has proven a little more elusive. Leprechaun imagery is ubiquitous during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but even the most ardent Paddy’s Day revelers may know little about these mythical creatures.

Now widely depicted as tiny, bearded and mischievous men clad in coats and hats, leprechauns have been traced to ancient Ireland. The precise etymology of the word “leprechaun” is unknown, though many scholars believe the word we use today is derived from the old Irish “Lú Chorpain,” which means “small body.” Some scholars point to the 8th century word “luchorpán,” meaning “sprite” or “pygmy,” as the origins of the word leprechaun. Another word, “lubrican,” which first appeared in the English language in a 1604 play written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, also has been linked to the modern word leprechaun.

Some historians believe the myth of the leprechaun has origins in ancient Ireland, when people believed the tiny creatures were among the various inhabitants of fairy forts and fairy rings throughout the Emerald Isle.

Another take on the source of the leprechaun myth is that these tiny creatures were modern incarnations of the Euro-Celtic god Lugh, who was the sun god as well as the patron of arts and crafts.

Manuscripts from the 12th to 15th centuries suggest leprechauns lived underwater and were not all male (modern leprechaun depictions are all male). In fact, the resource Ancient-Origins.net states that female leprechauns were depicted during this time as figures devoted to luring human men away for various adventures.

While 21st century celebrants of St. Patrick’s Day might be hard pressed to find images of leprechauns not dressed in green, that wasn’t always the case. Prior to the 20th century, leprechauns were described in various depictions as wearing red.

The images of leprechauns can be seen everywhere on and around St. Patrick’s Day, and those images have evolved considerably over the centuries

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National Apple Pie Day

t’s always the right time of year for fresh apple pie

Certain foods are synonymous with particular holidays or times of year. For example, few people can imagine celebrating Valentine’s Day without ample supplies of chocolate on hand. And what summer barbecue is complete without grilled hot dogs and hamburgers? While these foods and others are must-haves during certain times of the year, that doesn’t mean they cannot be enjoyed whenever a craving arises.

Apples, and particularly apple pie, are a staple of many holiday season celebrations. But apple pie is just as delicious in March, April, May, etc., as it is during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s especially true when the apples are fresh. Whether yours is a seasonal or non-seasonal craving for apple pie, be sure to satisfy it with this recipe for “French Apple Pie” from Mollie Cox Bryan’s “Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies” (Ten Speed Press).

French Apple Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 recipe Plain Pie Pastry (see below)

Raisin Filling

2/3 cup raisins

6 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup light corn syrup

11/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons sugar

2 apples (preferably a tart variety)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

11/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter, softened

To make the raisin filling, combine the raisins, water and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally until the raisins are plump, about 15 minutes.

Separately, combine the corn syrup, flour and sugar and mix well, then add to the raisins and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool until the mixture is just warm, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with 1 rolled-out crust.

Peel the apples, cut them into thin wedges, and put them in a large bowl. Separately, combine the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cornstarch, then add to the apples and gently stir until evenly mixed.

Spread the apple mixture in the crust in an even layer, then spread the raisin filling evenly over the apples. Brush the rim of the crust with water, cover with the second rolled-out crust, seal and flute or crimp the edges, and cut a steam vent in the center.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 to 2 hours, until completely cool.

To make the icing, combine the sugar and water and mix well. Add the butter and mix until smooth. Brush over the top of the cooled pie before serving.

Plain Pie Pastry

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup vegetable shortening

5 to 7 tablespoons cold milk

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until it is the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the milk over part of the flour mixture. Gently toss with a fork and push to the side of the bowl. Sprinkle another tablespoon of milk over another dry part, toss with a fork and push to the side of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining milk until all of the flour mixture is moistened.

Press the dough together to form 2 equal balls, then flatten into disks. Roll out the crusts right away, or wrap the dough tightly, smoothing out any little wrinkles or air pockets and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Use a light touch and handle the dough as little as possible.