It’s St. Patrick’s Day! And, if you’re like millions of Americans, there’s a good chance you have some Irish heritage. I come from a long line of proud Irish people, and my husband has an Irish background as well. Our youngest has an Irish name, and this week, as we watch the NCAA tournament, one of the teams we’re rooting for is the Fighting Irish.
But I always kind of took this Irish heritage for granted and never really thought much about St. Patrick’s Day events beyond wearing green. I started to think more about the holiday when we moved to Maine and my youngest son was in preschool.
At school, my son learned about making a leprechaun trap the night before St. Patrick’s Day. The idea is great. You decorate a box, put it up on a stick, leave some gold or something shiny to try to lure the leprechaun, and, in return, the leprechaun leaves your kiddo a present. I was all in until I learned about some of the presents the leprechauns left other kids in my son’s class.
It was a little too much like Christmas for my taste, and I was like “no.” I’m always doing my best to battle materialism in my kiddos, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money buying toys that a leprechaun was going to get credit for.
So last year, since we were homeschooling, I decided to be a little proactive about St. Patrick’s Day, and I learned a lot about my own Irish heritage along the way.
- Research your Irish heritage (if you have it) and talk about it with your kids.
I did some digging in an old family Bible to get the names and general dates of my key Irish ancestor. I found it that he came to America during the 1830s, moved around a bit, and ended up married a Cherokee woman and went on the Trail of Tears that ended in 1839. Our family doesn’t know for sure, but it seems like the two had a baby while on the Trail of Tears. It was great to be able to talk about immigration and Native American history with my son and tell him how his ancestry is a part of that history.
What a great way to bring history to life!
- Talk about the great waves of Irish immigration with older kids.
I’m a teacher in my core, so I can’t resist any opportunity to talk about history. In addition to researching your own family’s ancestry or if you don’t have Irish ancestry, you can use St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to learn about some real Irish history. I can’t help but think it’s good to get past the leprechauns.
There’s a reason so many of us in America and all over the world have an Irish background, and much of it’s related to the mass migration of Irish people during the great famines. When I sat down to research and teach my youngest about the famine for homeschool, I learned a few things myself. For example, I didn’t know that the country was actually exporting food while people were starving to death, but the poor people couldn’t have that food. This seems like an important and relevant conversation to have.
- Help your kids find an Irish penpal.
We recently found a penpal from Ireland for our youngest, and our whole family is learning so much about Ireland. It’s also just so much fun to see how a kiddo from another country and culture views the world. We used a great site called Students of the World. The site does work to keep it focused on kids, though we do monitor our son’s messages since he’s only 7. But I highly recommend this site. And, while there are students from all over the world seeking penpals, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to find a penpal from Ireland.
- Make some green treats and bake together.
Cooking is always a great activity to do with your kiddos, and making some green cookies or decorating a cake with green icing is a great way to celebrate all things green without having to buy treats from the store that are loaded with things you probably just don’t want your kiddos eating. Here’s a link to a great sugar cookie recipe that’s simple and quick. Adding a little green icing would fancy these right up for St. Patrick’s Day. Just be sure you’re ready to run around the yard or the block after everyone has one.
- Finally, make a simple leprechaun trap.
Here’s a link to some simple directions involving a shoe box and some green paper. But the teacher in me is going to advocate for leaving a book and a few small treats in the box.
I’m always a fan of bringing education to holidays and celebrating simply with your kiddos. What ideas can you share for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with your kids?