Many Americans hail heritage from the Emerald Isle, myself included. Some of my great grandparents (and great great grandparents) on both sides of my family emigrated from Ireland.
Growing up, my family had special traditions to keep us connected to the roots of our family history. We cooked certain foods or special family recipes and listened to stories about my great grandparents.
The Feast of St. Patrick
As an Irish American, I am struck by the importance of celebrating the feast of St. Patrick. If he never went back to evangelize the pagan culture in Ireland, Catholicism may not have taken root and spread. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I like to think my Irish relatives were Catholic because of St. Patrick. And, in a way, so am I.
Regardless of whether you claim Irish heritage or not, the life and legacy of St. Patrick (like many of the Saints in the Church) have impacted the world we live in to this day.
Meaningful Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
Here are some fun, unique ways to celebrate the feast of St. Patrick, including some ways the we celebrated growing up.
Many people associate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage. While it’s not my personal favorite, there are lots of ways you could have an Irish themed snack or supper.
An easy supper plan is an Irish stew, or Shepherd’s Pie. Made often with lamb or beef, it often has a mixture of vegetables and potatoes (a staple in many Irish dishes). Hearty and filling, it is great especially if you are dealing with cold temperatures where you live right now.
Our family still swears by great Grandma Lardner’s famous Irish soda bread recipe. Complete with raisins, buttermilk, and caraway, it always pleases a crowd. There are lots of different ways to make tasty soda bread. Whatever you pick, make sure the end result has lots of moisture…and that you have plenty of warm Kerrygold Irish butter on hand.
A more traditional (though perhaps less well-known) Irish recipe is Colcannon. Think of this as the Irish version of mashed potatoes mixed in with either Kale or Cabbage. Oh, and two whole sticks of butter!
If you’re serving some spirits, a pint of Guinness or a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey are classic options. Or, if you’re more like me, add a bit of Bailey’s to your coffee this day.
If you want to learn a Gaelic toast, heartily belt out Slainte! The word translates to “health” in Gaelic and is a common toast.
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Watch The Quiet Man
I remember first watching this sweet, funny love story filmed in Cong, Ireland with my Dad as a little girl. It is a heartwarming film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.
The story follows a retired Irish-American boxer who returns to the home of his childhood to make a new life. Along the way, he falls in love with a spirited, red-headed Irish woman.
If you have never seen it, I am certainly not going to spoil it for you. The supporting characters add color and humor in a way that makes you feel like you’re a part of the story.
Growing up, it never quite felt like Saint Patrick’s Day until we had a family viewing of The Quiet Man.
Enjoy Traditional Irish Music
Doesn’t Irish music make you smile and feel light? I am slightly biased, but I do love Irish tunes.
Give a listen to some classics like The Chieftains, The Irish Rovers, or The Dubliners.
If you want something a bit more modern, I’d recommend Scythian.
Pray for Unity Among Christians
Ireland is a country that has been torn apart for many years by hate and religious wars among Protestants and Catholics. It is a country that has known oppression of an occupied foreign military of the British Empire for many years.
This is a sad reality of what happens when people allow hate and racism to make us forget the dignity and worth of people who may be different or hold different religious beliefs.
The Irish flag even reflects this. The green represents Catholics. The orange represents Protestants. The white symbolizes unity between the two groups.
Use the feast of St. Patrick as an opportunity to pray for unity among all Christians. Take an opportunity to learn about the healing, restorative projects Ireland has developed from these awful bloody years known as The Troubles.
St. Patrick’s Breastplate
This is a popular prayer is attributed to St. Patrick and is one of the most common to Irish Catholic people. According to legend, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. for divine protection before successfully converting the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects to Christianity. The term breastplate refers to a piece of armor that was always worn in battle.
Use this day as an opportunity to pray this prayer. Maybe start your day with this prayer over your morning cup of coffee or include it when you pray grace with your family over dinner.
The feast day of Saint Patrick is another opportunity to connect our Catholic Faith to the wider culture and history of the people of Ireland.
St. Patrick, pray for us! And in the words of the Irish, Erin Go Bragh (Ireland forever)!Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Patty Breen is a regular contributor to the BIS blog and a devotion writer. She is a full-time lay minister who finds joy in running, strong cups of coffee, and all things Ignatian spirituality. A Midwestern gal from the mitten state, she is constantly learning to find grace in all things. She is passionate about ministry to divorced Catholics and women whose relationships have been impacted by sexual addiction. You can find out more about her here.