Guest post by Christine Lindstrom of Lindstroms on the Road.
Let’s play a quick word association game! What words come to mind when I say “St. Patrick’s Day”? Some common responses might be: green, leprechaun, shamrock, pot of gold, Irish. We all have a lot of fun associations with St. Patrick’s Day. But if you really stop to think of it, how much do you really understand this holiday? What will you teach your kids about it?
Recently my kids noticed an RV in the campground that was decorated for St. Patrick’s Day. My 9-year-old daughter was the only one to notice that the rig plastered with leprechauns was actually a Coachmen Leprechaun, and one could wonder if their choice of model was influenced by their passion for this holiday. Their curiosity was piqued and the questions came hard and fast: What is a leprechaun anyway? Why is St. Patrick’s Day a holiday? Who was St. Patrick? What is a saint? Why was everything green? Why were there little green clovers all over their windows? Is St. Patrick’s Day in March because of spring and everything turning green again after the winter?
It was one of those times when the questions came faster than I could answer them and each answer led to more questions. Even more frustrating, though, was that I didn’t have satisfactory answers to some basic questions and I needed to do more research when we got home. My guess is that a lot of people painting their faces green and downing pints of Guinness this March 17th might not know much about this holiday either.
Let’s do more than throw on a green t-shirt and buy a box of Lucky Charms this year. Let’s learn together about the history and significance of St. Patrick’s Day.
The Feast of St. Patrick
Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17? According to USCatholic.org, there are over 10,000 saints recognized by the church. Not all of them have feast days, but every single day of the year is a feast day to celebrate a saint, sometimes more than one. So the simple explanation is that March 17 is the feast day of St. Patrick, but no one is dying a river in honor of St. Cyril, whose feast day is March 18, or even St. Joseph of “Mary and Joseph” fame, whose feast day is March 19. So perhaps a better question is, why celebrate St. Patrick?
A simplified explanation is that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and the day has become a celebration of Irish culture and heritage. A more thorough history of the holiday can be found here.
Learning More about St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is a great opportunity to study geography, world cultures, history, literature, and religion with your kids. It is also easy to tie in the arts, sciences, and even math and kitchen skills with a little creativity. As always, tailor your study to suit the needs and interests of your kids. Here are some ideas to get you started:
National Geographic for Kids has some great resources available about Ireland and specifically about St. Patrick’s Day. BrainPOP also has an educational video with interactive features about St. Patrick’s Day. Primary Games has a whole list of St. Patrick’s Day games, some educational and some just for fun.
Use peppers or marshmallows to stamp shamrocks out of green paint. Make a mosaic version of the Irish flag or paint a leprechaun’s beard with a fork. This holiday lends itself well to a lot of tactile arts and crafts projects. Get creative in the kitchen with green pancakes, leprechaun popcorn, or Irish flag fruit skewers. For more great ideas, check out my St. Patrick’s Day board on Pinterest.
Books about St. Patrick’s Day
There are a few books available for free (with subscription) on Amazon Freetime. A classic, by beloved children’s book author Tomie dePaola, is Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland. Others which may be fun for younger children are Happy St. Patrick’s Day Curious George and Happy St. Patrick’s Day Hello Kitty. As always, a visit to a local library is also an excellent way to explore great books about this topic.
Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic – and Science!
There are St. Patrick’s Day themed resources available for almost any elementary math or literacy topic your kids happen to be studying. This free download is a great place to start. Why not learn about Irish limericks and experiment with writing your own? And speaking of experiments, try making Leprechaun Sand with basic household ingredients. Combine science and art in this Fizzy Paint Shamrock activity. And what kid would say no to a science experiment involving pudding? Not mine, that’s for sure. Try this Leprechaun Pudding science experiment!
Places to Go
The best place to learn about Ireland and St. Patrick is, of course, Ireland. If a trip to Ireland isn’t in the budget for this year, there are plenty of places Stateside to join a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Parades can be a festive way to introduce kids to Irish music, dancing, and culture (and sometimes include public drunkeness, so be careful.) Search online and in local newspapers for information on St. Patrick’s Day events where you are. If you are looking for a St. Patrick’s Day destination, these cities have something special to offer:
- Chicago, IL is all in – they dye the Chicago River bright green. The city has not one, but three official St. Patrick’s Day parades and various events are held throughout the month of March.
- New York, NY boasts the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the country, with hundreds of thousands of participants and millions of spectators.
- New Orleans, LA has no sooner cleaned up after the Mardis Gras festivities but it’s time to paint the town green. Parade-goers should be sure to shout, “Throw me something, Mister!” and then be prepared to catch a cabbage, onion, or carrot.
- Savannah, GA celebrates with a two-day festival of live music and dance parties, in addition to a grand parade. The water in the Forsyth Park fountain flows green in honor of the occasion
How will your family celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year? Luck o’ the Irish to ya!