Explaining St. Patrick’s Day to Kids
Each year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 17th. Though this isn’t considered an official, national holiday in the United States, in Ireland it is celebrated as a public holiday when schools and offices are closed. Most people associate St. Patrick’s Day with wearing something green to avoid getting pinched, though there are other symbols such as shamrocks and leprechauns that are usually included as part of the fun. Depending on where you live, your community may host St. Patrick’s Day parties or parades, leading your children to wonder what makes March 17th so special.
Here are some ideas for parents to help explain St. Patrick’s Day to their kids.
The patron saint of Ireland is St. Patrick. This man was not originally named Patrick, but adopted the name when he became a Christian missionary. St. Patrick is known for helping to spread Christianity throughout Ireland, though he was actually British. He was captured by Irish raiders and developed his deep faith during the years he spent as their captive.
March 17th is the day that marks St. Patrick’s death. Though he is commemorated on this day, there is no official record of the year in which he passed away. Most historians believe his life ended sometime between 461-493 AD.
Why People Wear Green on St. Patrick’s Day
The color green is closely tied with the country of Ireland, known as the Emerald Isle. This is due to the country’s beautiful green hills and grassy areas. In addition, the Irish flag has one green stripe, and the national symbol of Ireland is the shamrock. People wear green on St. Patrick’s Day to honor the country of Ireland and its people.
There is a legend that may explain an additional reason to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. As the story goes, leprechauns are likely to give people a pinch, which is what may happen if someone notices you aren’t wearing green on March 17th. According to the legend, wearing green makes people invisible to leprechauns, so they won’t be able to pinch you if they don’t see you.
Importance of the Shamrock
Reportedly, St. Patrick used the green shamrock while trying to convert the Irish people to Christianity. He presented the shamrock as a symbol of the Holy Trinity (in which each leaf represents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Others associate the three leaves of the shamrock with faith, hope, and love.
A shamrock has just three leaves, making it different from a four-leaf clover which is considered a sign of luck. Most shamrocks are small green sprigs, though they can grow in other colors. The name shamrock comes from the Irish word “seamair” which means young clover.
Importance of Leprechauns
The leprechaun is a small, magical creature (like a fairy) that is an important element of Irish folklore. Sometimes a leprechaun is portrayed as an old man who works as a shoemaker, but they are definitely known for the tricks they play. Leprechauns are also said to guard pots of gold, and catching one is considered lucky because you get to keep his treasure.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
People celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in many ways. Some common activities are attending church, watching a parade, or even enjoying a party. Food is an important part of the celebration, and your children may experience cupcakes or cookies with green icing or food coloring. Many Americans associated corned beef and cabbage with St. Patrick’s Day, although these are not traditional foods eaten in Ireland on March 17th. Irish staples would instead include soda bread, shepherd’s pie, tea and scones, beef pot roast, and apple tarts.
It’s commonly understood that you don’t need to have Irish ancestry to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. However, it’s important for parents to emphasize sensitivity to Irish culture on this day so that their children can celebrate in a respectful manner. To ensure that your kids have a culturally sensitive understanding and appreciation of March 17th, here are some suggestions that the whole family can enjoy:
- Go to the library and find books about St. Patrick’s Day, Irish folklore, Irish poetry, etc.
- Research interesting facts about the country of Ireland and locate it on a map or globe
- Play a game of “I Spy” to spot the color green
- Set up a fun “treasure” hunt
- Choose some green fruits and/or vegetables to add to the family dinner menu
Overall, St. Patrick’s Day is intended to be a fun holiday that celebrates family and togetherness. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational and entertaining toys that encourage the overall growth, development, and cultural awareness of children. That’s why we provide unique games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed by mothers to enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. They are also an excellent choice for family time.
Our products allow children to express themselves as growing individuals as well as members of larger groups such as their family, culture, etc. This fosters empathy and an appreciation of diversity as well. It’s more important than ever for families to connect and learn with each other, in addition to creating lasting memories by prioritizing excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and learning. We are grateful to be part of your family’s celebrations, and happy St. Patrick’s Day!