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St. Patrick's Day 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh! It's St. Patrick's Day and what we are trying to say is “St. Patrick's Day blessing upon you!” A religious holiday celebrated internationally on March 17th,  St. Patrick's Day is often associated with revelry, shamrock, Irish whiskey and Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. This day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Montserrat. We bring you a quick look into how this festival is celebrated.

 Saint Patrick

Though little is known for sure about Patrick's early life, it is a believed that he was born into a wealthy family in the 4th century. His family was associated with the Church through both his father and grandfather who were deacons. Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders at the age of sixteen and taken as a slave to Ireland. He lived there for six years before escaping to Britain. Patrick joined the church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest. In later years, Patrick's mastery of the Celtic tongue and familiarity with aboriginal Irish religions helped him considerably in his ministry. In 432, he went back to Ireland as a bishop and continued to Christianize the native Irish. He died in the 5th century on March 17, which is the day St. Patrick's Day is commemorated.

 Traditions and symbols

Around the world, the color green is associated with St. Patrick's Day. However, did you know that originally the color for this day was blue? Over a period of time, green became the preferred choice and celebrators began use, wearing green ribbons, the Blarney stone, shamrocks and designs based on the shamrock as important symbols. The shamrock came to be important to the Irish because St. Patrick is said to have used this three-leaved clover plant to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. But finding a four-leaved shamrock is considered lucky especially on this day. And no St.Patrick's Day is complete without the mythical leprechaun. Catch one on this day and you just might find yourself a pot of gold!

 The way the world celebrates

St. Patrick's Day became the official public holiday of Ireland in 1903. But it wasn't till the mid-1990s that the Irish government began a campaign to showcase this festival. Many towns, cities, and villages in Ireland hold parades and festivals. The biggest of these celebrations (outside of Dublin) takes place in Downpatrick where Saint Patrick is believed to have been buried. The festivals are a week long and marked by floats, concerts, sports events and pub hopping. In New Zealand green clothing is traditionally worn, and American cities like Chicago and Savannah dye their waterways green. In fact paraders participating in the New Orleans parades are known for throwing onions, carrots, cabbages, potatoes and other ingredients that make up the traditional Irish stew.

 St. Patrick's Day in the classroom

This festival is the easiest and most fun to celebrate even in very small classrooms. Here are a few ideas:

  1. St. Patrick's Day crafts: Introduce your class to this important aspect of Irish heritage and make fun craft items like a pot of gold, an Irish Celtic cross, leprechaun hat, and shamrocks.
  2. Wear green and join the local parade, or get your own parade started from classroom to classroom!
  3. Set up a movie for your class to watch. Some titles: The Luck of the Irish, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers: The Last Leprechaun. Or listen to some peacful Celtic Dreamland lullabies
  4. These titles make good reads for young kids: Tales of Celtic Lands, Tales from Old Ireland,  Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola, Jeremy Bean's St. Patrick's Day by Alice Shertle, The Night Before St. Patrick's Day by Natasha Wing, St. Patrick's Day Countdown by Salina Yoon; for the slightly older audience: The St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Mystery by Marion M. Markham, The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh by Janett Nolan and Ben F. Stahl, St. Patrick's Day: A Love Story by P. D. St Claire

 On St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish! 

Article written on behalf of Global Kids Oz by Annie Besant

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