When you think of March, I bet one thing that comes to mind is St. Patrick’s Day. This festive day is well known for parades, wearing green, leprechauns and green beer. Which made me wonder…what do all these things actually have to do with St. Patrick? I’m kind of fascinated by the history of holidays…where did the tradition start, what has shaped and changed the traditions over the years. So I did a little research of St. Patrick’s Day and thought I’d share what I learned and of course, some ideas to celebrate in your home!
So who was St. Patrick? He was the Priest/Bishop credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. According to historians he was neither Irish, nor was his given name Patrick. He was born to Roman British parents and at the age of 16 was kidnapped and taken to Ireland, were he was forced to tend sheep until his escape 6 years later. After he returned to his homeland he studied to become a Priest. I read that he took the name Patrick when he became a priest. Patrick felt called to return to Ireland to convert the Irish people. He spent 40 years teaching and traveling in Ireland before passing away on March 17. He is the Patron saint of Ireland and St. Patrick’s day has been a religious holiday for over 1000 years in Ireland.
Like many Saints, there are several fun legends surounding Saint Patrick. Two of my favorites include that he used the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Holy Trinity, and that he banished all the snakes from the Emerald Isle.
Shamrocks are the official flower of Ireland, and many Irish people pin them to themselves on St. Patrick’s Day. There is also a legend that St. Patrick used the shamrock’s three leaves to teach the pagan people about the three persons of God. (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
Leprechauns don’t have any direct association with the original religious holiday of St. Patrick’s day. Leprechauns are common in Irish folklore and have become a symbol of the Irish culture. As St. Patrick’s day has evolved into more of a cultural celebration, and especially here in the US, the leprechauns have taken center stage in the celebration. I’m not anti-leprechauns and rainbows. We have some leprechaun books that are fun to read, but I try to focus a little more on St. Patrick himself.
The Color Green
Interesting enough, the original color of St. Patrick’s day was blue. It wasn’t until the shamrock became a National symbol that the color was changed to green. I read several different legends for the tradition of wearing green, some fun ones included that leprechauns pinch anyone whose not wearing their favorite color or that green makes you invisible to leprechauns so they can’t pinch you. The real origin of the color green for St. Patrick’s day is believed to be Irish immigrants who came to America looking for job opportunities, who began to wear green for political purposes or to show their Irish pride.
If you are looking for some St. Patrick’s Day traditions to start, here are some fun ways to celebrate with your crew:
1. Try a traditional Irish dish. One thing that I love about celebrating feast days is that they offer a great opportunity to learn about other cultures. Bangers and mash, colcannon, Irish Soda Bread. This post has some dishes that look delicious. Shepherd’s pie might be more English, but fitting given St. Patrick’s years as a shepherd. Corned beef is also popular for St. Patrick’s day in the United States, but less so in Ireland.
2. Go green. Put together a snack board with green foods- green peppers, green apples, guacamole, celery, edamame, green grapes, broccoli…you could definitely add in an assortment of green candies or shamrock cookies. My children would definitely prefer the fruit and sweets to the vegetables, but you can’t blame a Mom for trying, right?
4. Read a few books about St. Patrick, St. Patrick’s day or Irish Culture.
Our Favorites Include:
Patrick- Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola
The Story of St. Patrick’s Day by Patricia A. Pingry
St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting
For a fun twist enjoy some gummy snakes after reading about the legend of St. Patrick and the snakes.
Or check out these printables:
5. Make shamrock cookies together. These cookies are a great opportunity to discuss the shamrock and the Holy Trinity. Even if St.Patrick didn’t use the shamrock as a teaching tool, doesn’t mean you can’t! These cookies aren’t show stoppers, but you don’t need a cookie cutter and they’re super hands on for kid helpers! Use your favorite sugar cookie recipe and add green food coloring. Then roll 3 small balls of dough and place together on the cookie sheet, forming a triangle. Add a small piece of dough for a stem and then gently smash with the bottom of a glass.
6. Make a St. Patrick’s Day craft. Try stamping shamrocks using marshmallows and green paint. Super easy and very few supplies. You could even talk about the Trinity and the sign of the cross as you paint. I also like this shamrock trinity idea that uses green construction paper, popsicle sticks and markers. And this bouquet of shamrocks using coffee filters, food coloring and pipe cleaners is adorable, plus it could totally count as a homeschool art lesson if you work in a little color mixing of blue and yellow!
7. Go on a clover hunt. Although shamrocks may not be found in the US you might just be able to find some other varieties of clover. So head out for a little nature walk and keep your eyes peeled for some clover to bring home for St. Patrick’s Day!
If you are looking for some quick and cute decorations, these printables by detail-oriented diva are a great way to add a little festiveness to your table or mantle.