I’m sorry, but we as Americans don’t do a very good job at explaining our heritage and culture. You don’t have to be Irish or Irish Catholic to remember St. Patrick. St Patrick is recognized by the Orthodox as well. Or that many people in Ireland will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day not just by wearing shades of green and drinking green beer but going to church prior to the pub for a pint of Guinness not a green beer. Or green food in any context. Except for shamrock shakes. Shamrock shakes are a cherished American tradition. Bet you didn’t even know all of that, lads and lasses.
Did you know that Patrick is Latin for Patricius which means high-born? His parents were Christian, and his father was a deacon. At the age of 16, he was captured and taken to Ireland where he was a slave to herding sleep. During this time, he increased his prayer life and wanted to become closer to God. He eventually sought clerical training and returned to his homeland to preach the gospel. During his time as a priest, he established an episcopal administration which helped bring Christianity to Ireland. So, when we need to turn to God to renew our belief in Him, St. Patrick is a good example of a saint that we can pray to.
Even St.Patrick’s Day parades were once silent, like the 1921 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, when more than 20,000 men and women belonging to Irish organizations marched silently down Fifth Avenue. The spectators were just as silent, carrying inscriptions of protest against England. The Irish War of Independence from Britain ended later that year.
And sure, we may not be able to indulge in some of the traditional Irish dishes or rock out at the pub all night as the feast day always falls during the Lenten period or the start of it for the Orthodox on some years. But isn’t that so fitting though? Umm..no. Please. Isn’t there something to be said about attitude during Lent as well? 😉 As Lent is a period of going to church more, fasting and working on our prayer lives, we can certainly reflect on the life story of St. Patrick and apply the need for prayer in our daily lives as well. Pray together with your parents. Pray together as a couple. Pray with your children. Pray with your family. Or retreat to your prayer corner and meditate for a bit today and then every day.
How can children learn about St. Patrick? Most children under age 12 will not be able to fully grasp these concepts though they should never feel excluded. There are activities fit for a child’s age each year which will help them learn so they can put together pieces by pieces about the feast each year. Try these today or bookmark these for a future Sunday School lesson.
Appropriate St.Patrick’s Day Activities for Children by Age Group
Ages 2-4 and 4-6
For children this age, use the hands-on approach to engage their senses just like the author did here from The Jenny Evolution.
Most children in this (especially in the first) age group are very curious by their surroundings in their world. They are very touch and go and love playing with everything, even if that means knocking down a few things. Woops. This is why hands-on activities engaging the senses are key to helping your child learn about the feast. Products like extra food or paper plates or engaging their precious little paws (little paws will not last! Take advantage of them now) that they seem to find endless amusement with can be turned into unique craft to hang on the refrigerator. Today, the refrigerator. Thirty years later, you’ll be invited to the opening of their work being showcased at one of the art galleries downtown.
Don’t fret if they can’t do it alone and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Finger painting, St.Patrick’s Day stamps and themed coloring books or do these activities together.Making memories out of crafts they can do are key. Here are a few other easy craft ideas.
Children still love the hands-on approach and some children may even appreciate learning about St. Patrick’s through age-appropriate picture books. Activities aren’t so much about keeping your children occupied, but in this age group, children can begin to think for themselves and ask questions. Join in by helping them with immediate skilled crafts that will continue to make you smile when you look at your refrigerator…sometimes from the outside the day before you need to go grocery shopping. Sorry, you probably still have to clean up though.. at first. But encourage their help gently and offer one chore they can handle at a time. Try these easy crafting ideas.
At this age, children do think for themselves and begin to grasp independence. They may still appreciate hands-on crafts but require almost no supervision and clean up after themselves. To tie these two qualities together, focus on a thoughtful hands-on craft and upon completion, join your child as you deliver it to church shut-ins or at a local nursing home to teach local goodwill acts and looking out for your neighbors and community. You may not even have to do this on your own as your child may get to do activities like this if they are in scouting or through youth ministry. If your parish doesn’t do this in youth ministry or has yet one established, pitch the idea to your priest.
You still want to be closely connected to your teenager as you can be. They may still remember and appreciate and even look forward to the “family traditions” with glee and memories. Take pictures! Kids this age have fun adding their own photo captions to dad’s sneaky place of hiding the stuffed leprechaun hat during the annual St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt every year. They can still very much participate in youth ministry and even hold office. Outside of church, try St.Patrick’s Day themed word searches and crosswords to even hosting that annual scavenger hunt. Here’s an idea of that scavenger hunt.
All Age Groups
Take pictures! You never want to forget precious memories of your childhood that a picture can easily recall. Fortunately, as parents, we have our phones on us quite often so get off of Facebook and open your camera app and start capturing memories!