Although St. Patrick's Day was originally a religious holiday celebrating Ireland's primary patron saint, it's become more widely celebrated by people around the world, regardless of ethnic background and religion.
Start the day with a story that helps your kids understand who St. Patrick really was and how the holiday originated. Tomie dePaola's Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland is an accurate and age-appropriate biography that helps distinguish between legend and fact. This book may be easier for children familiar with Catholic customs to understand, but the language is clear enough that is should be accessible to all families.
For a little more Irish history, read The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh, by Janet Nolan. This story of a family leaving Ireland for America demonstrates the importance of holding onto family traditions even in a new place. Use it as a springboard to talk about your own family's heirlooms and customs, and a way to introduce the concepts of immigration and tolerance.
Once you've learned the history of the holiday, settle down for a fun read with There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover! by Lucille Colandro. It's the silly tale of a woman who swallows things and part of a very funny series of books. Also check out The Luckiest St. Patrick's Day Ever, by Teddy Slater, which is a fun story perfect for ages 4 and up.
Sure you could serve foods that are naturally green, like peas and kiwis and avocados, but why stop there? Green food can be fun for your kids, and almost any favorite can turn green for a day! For a true treat, try making meatcakes. Start by making mini-meatloaves in a muffin tin. Next, prepare your favorite mashed potato recipe with the addition of green food coloring. Spoon the potatoes into a zip-top bag and cut off one of the bottom two corners, then pipe the potatoes onto the meatloaves to mimic cupcakes.
Other easy green foods include scrambled eggs (with the addition of food coloring), jello, lemonade and mint chocolate chip ice cream. If you don't think your kids will appreciate green food, you can also reshape ordinary dishes into shamrocks, rainbows, or other festive shapes.
Take the green theme a step further and find one thing you and your family can do to have a positive impact on the environment. Plant a tree, recycle paper, switch to cloth napkins — choose whatever works for your family and do it. The rewards you'll reap for that are even better than the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day with your kids? Let us know in the comments.
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