Erin go bragh
Fun St. Patrick's Day traditions for any family
How much do you know about St. Patrick? Before we explore some festive traditions to help celebrate his legacy, let’s learn a little bit about the man himself. Revelers who aren’t Catholic might assume that St. Patrick was a devout Irishman. (You know, what with being an actual saint and all). But in fact, he was neither—at least not to start with. Born in Britain to a noble family, a teenage Paddy was kidnapped by Irish pirates and enslaved for the next 17 years. Although he had been an atheist, he reconnected with his Catholic birthright while in captivity in Ireland, and after his escape from slavery, he studied to become a priest. Later, after being ordained as a bishop, he traveled to the country as a missionary. St. Patrick spent the remainder of his life spreading the gospel of Christ and supporting the Christians of Ireland. The first American parade in his honor took place in 1766 when Irish soldiers in the British Army took to the streets to show their pride. However, the saint had been celebrated—and by Protestants, no less—as early as 1737 in what was then known as the 13 Colonies.
Bake some soda bread and let the fairies out
One of the most widely known Irish foods is soda bread. Rather than depending on yeast, as most bread does, this loaf relies on the reaction created by combining baking soda and an acidic liquid, usually buttermilk. Its only other mandatory ingredients are flour and salt. Modern bakers often add raisins, craisins, cranberries, currants, orange, chocolate chunks, sugar or molasses. Soda bread, something of a blank slate thanks to its simplicity, can also be embellished with cheese, herbs, spring onions or bacon. No matter how you flavor it, use a sharp knife or bread lame to slash a cross on the unbaked loaf. According to custom, doing so lets the fairies out, thereby ensuring the eaters’ good fortune. Irish fairies are very different from Disney’s Tinkerbell and her ilk. Far from being cute, glittery, or even friendly, these are malevolent little critters, tricksters who have the potential to do real harm, and a surprising percentage of the Irish population believe in them. (No word on how baking supplies like flour become fairy-infested, however.)
Wear the green
Look around your workplace or local watering hole on St. Paddy’s Day, and chances are you’ll see a sea of green garments. Long associated with the geography of Ireland—a.k.a the Emerald Isle—this hue also references the land’s political history. The “Wearin’ of the Green,” a traditional Irish ballad, tells the story of how Irish men and women were once punished for rebellion against England dating back to 1798. In the symbolism of the nation’s flag, the green stripe represents Catholicism, while the orange stands for Protestantism and the white, in between, for peace between the two. Nowadays, wearing green on March 17th is a way of showing solidarity with Irish friends and celebrating the occasion. It’s also said to bring luck to the wearer, so why not?
Scout out some shamrock crafts
Fun fact: shamrocks and four-leaf clovers are not the same. Shamrocks have three leaves and are much more common; for every four-leaf clover, there are some 10,000 of their three-leaved counterparts. Some legends say that St. Patrick used shamrocks to teach the lesson of the Holy Trinity, but scholars have disputed this. Although it’s the elusive four-leaf clovers that are considered lucky, plenty of people celebrate with shamrocks when St. Paddy’s day rolls around. And it sure makes crafting shamrock-themed decorations a whole lot easier when there’s one less leaf to make! Get the kids involved in creating shamrocks with craft paper, pipe cleaners, crayons or stamps. Challenge your own skills by crocheting a festive accessory. For an activity the whole family will enjoy, bake up some lucky cookies or cupcakes together.
Trap a leprechaun
Did you know that leprechauns have their own holiday on May 13? That means if your kids don’t catch one this St. Patrick’s Day, they have almost two months to renovate or rebuild their leprechaun trap. This St. Patrick’s Day tradition is relatively new, but it’s a really fun activity for young ones. Arm them with inexpensive craft supplies, many of which you may already have around the house, starting with a tissue box, shoebox, or other similar container. Decorate the leprechaun trap with cotton balls, pipe cleaners, washi tape, popsicle sticks and stickers. Incorporate plenty of rainbows, shiny coins, and shamrocks, and be sure to make a sign pointing to “Free Gold,” which will entice the tricky fellows. (Protip: know that leprechauns have gotten pretty darn good at evading these traps, but there’s one sure sign they almost got tricked: the pile of treasure—chocolate coins or shiny trinkets—that they leave behind.)