Is it just me or do you get really excited about St. Patrick’s Day, too? I don’t know what it is about St. Patrick’s Day that I enjoy so much.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved Ireland (even though I haven’t been able to visit yet…)
Maybe because I love Patrick’s story and his attitude in a very discouraging situation…
Maybe because I love all things mint and chocolate…
Maybe because I admire Patrick’s sense of adventure…
But I’m getting ahead of myself! Today, I want to share with you some of the ways we have incorporated celebrating St. Patrick’s Day into our homeschool days. I’m even including a few new suggestions for activities we’ll be trying out this year.
And yet, before we get into the how to celebrate, let’s take a moment and look at the why we’re celebrating. Who was this Patrick guy and why does he even have a day where we celebrate him?
Who Was Patrick?
The Early Years
Patrick was born about the year 379 AD near Somerset, England. His family was rather wealthy and even though he had more than a lot of other kids his age, he lived a pretty typical life. He grew up, went to school, played with friends, and learned about God.
But you know there had to be something unusual about Patrick, right? Typically people are not given the title ‘Saint’ or have a holiday named after them who just live typical lives!
Well, when Patrick was just 16 years old, he was captured by a band of Irish raiders! Tied up, he was unable to contact his family, forced into a ship and taken to Ireland where he was sold as a slave!
Patrick’s family must have been devastated. To think that one day, their son had gone out and all of a sudden disappeared must have been a complete and total shock. They had no way of knowing what happened or even whether Patrick was dead or alive.
Patrick’s First Trip to Ireland
Across the water in Ireland, Patrick found himself forced to do the bidding of his new master. And he found himself getting very, very lonely. You see, not only was he taken from a life where he was the master and forced to become a slave, not only did he experience being purchased as you might purchase a lawn mower or a coffee pot, Patrick didn’t even speak the language! Even through English is spoken in both England and Ireland today, many years ago, the Irish people spoke a language called Gaelic.
Now, Patrick had every reason to give up at this point, right? He could have resigned himself to his fate, done the bare minimum work and simply made up his mind to be miserable for the rest of his life.
But he didn’t.
Patrick started learning the language of the Irish people. He decided to do his best at what he did – even though he had no choice in whether or not to do what he was told! And more than that, Patrick started to lean into his faith in God.
You see, as a boy, Patrick had learned about God. He had gone to church like a good English boy, but it took something big and drastic (like getting captured by raiders and being sold as a slave) for him to turn to God as his strength and his Savior.
And so, time went on. Patrick served his master. He did his work. He learned the language of the people. He learned the customs of the Irish people. And he prayed as he worked.
A Twist in the Story
One day, 6 years after he was first captured, Patrick felt God telling him to leave and go to the coast where a ship was waiting for him. So he did. There he found a ship that was about to set sail for England and Patrick was able to gain passage on that ship – with no money, mind you!
Now, the distance between Ireland and England is rather short as far as sailing trips go. And yet, the ship that Patrick was on got blown off course by a big storm. In fact, it got blown so far off course that the ship and her crew landed in France (known at that time as Gaul)!
Now, some accounts say that the ship landed in England, in a part unknown to any of the sailors. What we do know is that the food stores ran out and through Patrick’s prayers and God’s provision, some wild boars came to the camp of sailors. They were able to eat and eventually did make it back to England.
Back in England
Can you imagine the surprise and delight and shock Patrick’s family must have felt when he returned to England? He had been gone for over 6 years! They must have given him up for dead years ago, and yet, here he was.
But even though Patrick was incredibly glad to be back home with his family. Even though he was incredibly glad not to be a slave, there was something still pressing on his heart.
You see, while he was in Ireland, Patrick not only learned the language of the Irish people, but he also learned their customs. He learned their beliefs, who they worshipped and how they worshipped. In those days, Ireland was ruled by chieftains who led clans. And these clans were constantly fighting each other, but one thing they had in common was their belief in the Druid religion. Very little is known about this religion because they did not keep records of their own. They did rule over Ireland and they believed in, sacrificed to, and worshipped idols.
So even as Patrick was relieved to be home, his heart was pulled back to Ireland. In fact, Patrick had a vision of the Irish people begging him to come back to Ireland and walk among them again.
But instead of jumping on the next boat to Ireland, Patrick wanted to make sure that he knew the Scriptures before he started teaching them to other people. So, he started to study even more. He joined a monastery and made it his life’s mission to learn the Scriptures so he could go back to Ireland and share the gospel with the people who had enslaved him.
Now, this learning wasn’t a quick process. In fact, Patrick finished his course of study, but the politics of the church kept him from returning to Ireland for many years. But finally, almost 40 years after Patrick had escaped slavery he got on a boat to return to Ireland.
Back to Ireland
But going back to Ireland wasn’t a simple thing. Going back to Ireland was actually a huge risk for Patrick! You see, even though in England he was a free man and a leader in the church, in Ireland he was nothing more than an escaped slave. On top of that, his former master could actually choose to make him a slave again – for the rest of his life!
Can you imagine the courage it must have taken for Patrick to get in that boat and step back onto Irish soil? He know that he could become a slave again in a heartbeat, and yet his calling to take the gospel to the Irish people was so strong that he was willing to risk everything for them.
Once Patrick set foot on Irish soil, he started traveling around the island, proclaiming the truth of the gospel to the Irish people. Patrick even went to the chieftain who had enslaved him, but the chieftain was so afraid of Patrick that he ran away and hid! Patrick never had the opportunity to meet with this man face to face.
Freed from slavery for good, Patrick began to share God’s truth with the Irish people. Now, this wasn’t the first time that people had come to Ireland to share the love and the truth of God with the Irish. But Patrick was different. Patrick had already spent 6 years in Ireland. He knew the language, the customs, the beliefs, their mindset. So Patrick was able to connect with the Irish people in a way that no other outsider had been able to.
You’ve probably guessed that the Irish people embraced Patrick and the message of truth he brought. And while it’s true that they did, the journey there wasn’t easy. Patrick faced ridicule, hunger, attacks, imprisonment, and more.
Yet, through it all, Patrick loved the Irish people and shared the truth of the gospel not just in what he taught, but in how he lived. Patrick never left Ireland again. He travelled all over the island teaching, preaching, and living the message of the gospel. After traveling and teaching for 25 years, Patrick took up residence in Downpatrick, Ireland. He continued to minister from there even though he wasn’t up for traveling all over the island anymore.
Patrick died in Ireland on March 17, 460 AD (at least it is commonly believed that it was the year 460 AD). He left behind a legacy of love for God and for the Irish people. Under Patrick’s leadership more than 120,000 people had come to know Christ, more than 300 churches had been established, Irish slavery had been abolished, and cruel treatment of others had ended.
And so, each year on March 17, we remember St. Patrick: The unusual events of his life and his incredible devotion to God in sharing the love of God with the Irish people.
How to Celebrate
Patrick’s story is one of courage, of trials, of triumphs, and of almost unbelievable events. So, how do you celebrate a day like this? How do you have fun and still remember to celebrate the real meaning of the holiday?
Here are a few different activities you can use to incorporate St. Patrick and his love of the Irish people into your celebration this year.
Read Some Books
One of the best ways to celebrate any holiday is to learn about it and the land where it all began. Getting books from your local library both about Patrick and about Ireland will help give you a better picture of why this holiday is one to be celebrated.
Now, I know you’ve just read through who Patrick was, but I don’t want to leave you with only that! Here are a few of our family’s favorite books to get you started:
- The Story of Saint Patrick’s Day by Patricia A. Pingry
- Adventures with Bella and Harry: Let’s Visit Dublin! By Lisa Manzione
- The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh by Janet Nolan
- Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Ireland by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet
- March Mischief by Ron Roy (part of the Calendar Mysteries Series)
Get A Taste
What better way to get a taste of Ireland than by making some traditional Irish recipes? Here are a few to get you started:
Irish Soda Bread
This recipe has become one of our family favorites around St. Patrick’s Day! It’s simple to make and very tasty – especially when you enjoy it right out of the oven!
Here’s a link to the recipe we use on All Recipes.com. Over they years, we’ve made one slight modification: The recipe say to make one big loaf of bread, but we found the center of the loaf didn’t get baked all the way through until the edges were really hard and almost inedible. However, when we split the dough into 3 or 4 smaller loafs, it works so much better! (Just remember to adjust your cooking time when you split up the dough!)
Potatoes and cabbage are two staple foods you’ll find in Ireland. But how do you make them in a tasty way? Try this simple recipe for Irish Colcannon or Creamy Potatoes and Cabbage from Food.com. (Follow this link to get there.) You might want to have this dish alongside your main course on St Patrick’s Day.
Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie is a common dish in Ireland, England, and Scotland. Essentially, it’s a casserole of meat, veggies, and mashed potatoes. Pure comfort food and super filling on a cold and rainy day!
Now, when you break it down, Shepherd’s Pie is usually made with lamb and Cottage Pie is usually made with ground beef. But either way you choose, this tasty casserole will be sure to be a crowd pleaser! Here’s a link to the recipe that we have fallen in love with over the years from Simply Recipes.com.
Activities to Do
When it comes to creating St Patrick’s Day activities, the only real limit is your imagination! But, sometimes you need some suggestions to get those creative juices flowing. Here are a few of our favorite activities to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day:
- You cannot go wrong with the classic idea of wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day! Ireland is known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ because of all the shades of green you’ll find there. How many shades of green can you wear? Perhaps you can even have a contest to see who can wear the most green or who can wear the most shades of green!
- Get online (with your children) and look up pictures of Ireland. Don’t forget to check out the amazing castles, manor houses, and landscapes. While you’re at it, look up some pictures of the libraries in Ireland. Don’t forget to look at the Long Room or the main chamber of the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin. It’s a sight you won’t soon forget!
- Do a search online or on your favorite music streaming platform for some traditional Irish music and listen to it together. If you’re brave, you can even try an Irish jig!
- One of the things Ireland is known for is the Irish dance. If you do a search on YouTube, you can find lots of examples of Irish reels and jigs. One of the most famous examples of this impressive dance is Riverdance. Here is a link to watch the opening number, Reel Around the Sun, of this incredible show on YouTube.
There are endless crafts you could do to celebrate St Patrick’s Day! Here are a few simple ones that don’t require a lot of preparation to inject your St Patrick’s Day activities with fun!
Decorate with Shamrocks
The country of Ireland is know for its shamrocks. Part of the reason they grow so well and in so many place in Ireland is the climate is simply perfect for them! So why not make some shamrocks of your own to decorate with?
All you need to create these shamrocks is green construction paper, scissors, and glue or tape. Believe it or not, shamrocks are pretty easy to create. They look like 3 hearts with the points meeting together and a stem reaching down from the grouping of heart points.
So, cut 3 hearts and 1 thin rectangle out of your green construction paper. Then glue these 4 pieces together with the heart points and one end of the rectangle meeting in the middle. Make as many of them as you like! Once the glue dries, use them to decorate your windows or anywhere else in your home you want to look festive for the holiday!
Never underestimate the power of a coloring page! You can look up St Patrick’s Day Coloring Pages to print offline or you could look for a specific Irish symbol. Here are a couple ideas to get your search started: Shamrocks, rainbows with pots of gold, pictures of St Patrick, pictures of Irish dancers, or even decorating a shillelagh on paper.
Make a Shillelagh
What is a shillelagh? A shillelagh is an old Irish word for a short, stout club typically made out of oak. An Irish man would use this both as a walking stick and for protection when it was necessary. But it wasn’t just any walking stick. The shillelagh would be expertly carved and smoothed to remain strong throughout the years.
You can make your own shillelagh for St Patrick’s Day. Simply start with an empty wrapping paper tube or you can take brown butcher paper and roll it up to create a paper walking stick. From there, you can decorate your shillelagh with markers or stickers or anything you’d like.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous (and have some woodworking experience!) you can find a stick and carve it and sand it down just like the Irish would have years ago.
Make Your Own Rainbow
Create your own rainbow! You’ll need 6 clear drinking glasses, 6 paper towels, red, yellow, and blue food coloring and some counter space for this experiment. Arrange the glasses in a circle and fill every other one (3 in total) about half full with water. Put a few drops of each color of food coloring in the 3 glasses that have water.
Once you’re done, your circle pattern will look like this: Water with red food coloring, empty glass, water with yellow food coloring, empty glass, water with blue food coloring, empty glass.
Next, take your paper towels and fold each one accordion-style until they are about an inch or two wide and about 9 inches long. Drape the paper towels between the glasses. You can look at the picture for an example of this.
Then, watch and wait! The colored water will actually move along the paper towels to create a rainbow in your drinking glasses!
Experiment with Color
Since Ireland is known for its many shades of green, here’s a couple fun experiments you can do with color:
- Get some white daisies (or any white flower will do). Instead of putting them in clear water, add a few drops of green food coloring to the water and watch how the green color gets pulled up through the stems into the flower petals. (This will take a few days to see the full effect.)
- If you’re still in the middle of winter and it’s hard to find daisies or any type of flower, try putting a few drops of green food coloring on an icicle. Then take a flashlight and see how the light looks different when you shine it on a regular icicle verses your green one.
No matter how you choose to celebrate this year, remember that St Patrick is more than the name of a holiday. Patrick was an incredible guy with a heart full of love for the Irish people.
Don’t celebrate just the green and the shamrocks and the leprechauns and the pots of gold. Don’t get me wrong, these are fun and we have lots of these up in our house! But don’t let the true reason for this holiday to get swallowed up in all the rest.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
May the road rise to meet you,A Traditional Irish Blessing
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
- Epic Travel Adventures for You to Enjoy: Travels with Gannon & Wyatt
- Exploring the Excitement that Makes the Mystery: The A to Z Mystery Series
- How to Do More Than Read The Little House Books
- Irish Soda Bread Recipe from AllRecipes.com
- Irish Colcannon Recipe from Food.com
- Cottage Pie Recipe from SimplyRecipes.com
- Watch Reel Around the Sun from RiverDance on YouTube
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.