St. Patrick’s Day — March 17
Tell your children the real story of the real St. Patrick!
St. Patrick was the apostle to the Irish. He was born in England about 389 AD. and as a boy he was carried off by pirates to be a slave among the still-pagan Irish. He tended his owners’ herds in the mountains, and during that time, love of God and faith in Him grew and grew in Patrick’s heart. Eventually he escaped and returned home to England, but he began to have dreams and visions of the pagans in Ireland crying out for him to come and tell them of Christ. Patrick was ordained to the priesthood, returned to Ireland, and began his work of evangelization. In this he was astonishingly successful!
The shamrock, or “trefoil” is called “Patrick’s Cross” and became the sumbol of this saint when he was trying to explain the mystery of The Trinity to some pagans (who were about to stone him). He picked up a shamrock and pointed out that it has three leaves but is still one plant.
Here is my favorite depiction of St Patrick trying to explain the Trinity to those pagans who were about to stone him:
It is said that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, but that isn’t literally true. Instead, as people willingly converted to Christianity, they gave up their Druid religion. Druidic religion, like all pagan nature religions, involved human sacrifice — a practice Christians have always found to be repugnant and a great evil. So, in a sense, Patrick did drive a bunch of snakes out of Ireland.
For St, Patrick’s Day Dinner you could always serve the old standby of corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes with something green (like pistachio pudding) for dessert, and a centerpiece of shamrocks (made from construction paper by your children).
Or you could serve a molded salmon dish (molded in the shape of a cross, fish, ring, or shamrock) with sour cream and dill, green peas and mashed potatoes. In Ireland this would be served with a “Patrick’s pot” of ale or whiskey — but you could just make your favorite punch and call it a “Patrick’s pot.”
St. Joseph Day — March 19
There is a Father’s Day, of sorts, right in the middle of March. March 19 is St. Joseph, Foster Father of Jesus Christ, Day. Among Western Christians (that’s us) he is considered the patron saint of the Universal Church, the entire family of Christians. Eastern Christians celebrated St. Joseph Day for centuries before the Crusades, as which time Western Christians began to celebrate him. He became the patron saint of carpenters, men who make their living with their hands, and unwed mothers (because of his kindness to and protection of Mary). Because he was the special man God chose to be the one who protected and provided for the Holy Family, Joseph is the patron of Christian families and homes. Because of his dreams and his close relationship with God, he is also the patron of the interior spiritual life.
Throughout the world, this is a day to give special honor to those fathers who protect and provide for their families. It is also a day to make special gifts of food to the poor (say, through the food bank at Holy Trinity) and to invite friends and family to an Italian dinner. Why all the food gifts? Because fathers provide for their families ands care for the poor. Why an Italian dinner? Because nowhere is St. Joseph’s Day celebrated with deeper feeling and greater gusto than in Italy.
If you would like, your family can also celebrate the Annunciation on March 25. That is when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary as a messenger from God. Whet is celebrated on this day is Mary’s response to the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant.” Mary is regarded as the model disciple.
To this day in Sweden, this day remains an important day in the Lutheran Church calenday. (Hooray Sweden!) Swedish families (and Swedish Lutheran congregations) celebrate Annunciation Day with waffle suppers. And then in some places they bury the crumbs in the fields and pray for a good harvest, but your pastors do not encourage you in this part of the celebration.