Let’s face it – when your days consist of early morning wake-ups, diaper changes, cooking, cleaning, getting the kids to school on time, it can be hard to even remember what day it is. Why not break up the monotony this month by spending March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day and March 19th, St Joseph’s Day celebrating their respective heritage and cultures? Full disclaimer: this is not a history lesson but rather a celebration of customs, diversity, and some fun activities for kids to make the day special.
Quick fact check for those unfamiliar with these two- St. Patrick’s Day is a feast celebration day dedicated to St. Patrick who brought Christianity into Ireland.
St. Joseph’s Day is a Roman Catholic holiday originating in Italy in remembrance of St Joseph, the patron saint of Sicily.
Growing up Irish and Italian, March was always a great month. The weather starts to turn (sometimes temporarily), early flowers start to pop up, and summer starts to feel closer than before. My mother always jumped at the chance to decorate the house and celebrate any holiday, big or small. Being that she is Irish, little candy dishes full of green candies would pop up all over the place on March 1st, followed by funny Leprechauns figurines and shamrocks on the windows. Now that I have kids of my own, I’ve tried to pass down my Mother’s heritage and start a few new traditions. So get ready! This short list is packed with activities that will entertain the kids all day and hopefully make bedtime a breeze so you can celebrate too.
- Wear green or red. Choose outfits together sporting green on St. Paddy’s Day and red on St. Joseph’s Day. Let your child put together an outfit that shows just how proud they are to be Irish or Italian OR just to celebrate and support those who are.
- Make your meals holiday themed. For example – Green pancakes or waffles for breakfast. If you’re weary (like me) of force feeding food coloring, rest assured there are plenty of plant-based dye options now-a-days. Hide some pureed spinach in there! If your child is headed to school for the day, pack them an all green lunch. Take St. Patrick’s Day as a chance to introduce them to all the wonderful green vegetables that they may not eat very often – kale, sugar snap peas, zucchini, or Brussels sprouts! If you’re up to the task, the ever popular Americanized Irish dish Corned beef and cabbage is a hearty dinner for the whole family. Keep in mind, corned beef can be a pretty involved recipe, so plan ahead. My not-so-secret parent hack is to buy sliced corned beef at the deli counter and make Rubens for dinner instead. Sandwiches for dinner always go over well in my house. For St. Joseph’s Day, a red-themed breakfast along the same lines as waffles or pancakes and add sliced or pureed strawberries for a red touch. Monochromatic red themed lunches with red apples, pomegranates, raspberries, or if your little is a good eater, a delicious Italian grinder would be a treat! There are endless possibilities for a St. Joseph’s Day dinner. Pasta with meatballs and red sauce (or “gravy” depending on the Italian you’re talking to), Chicken Parmesan is a classic, or my personal favorite – make your own pizza night. DIY pizza is a great way to get the kids involved in dinner, spark creativity, and most importantly it’s a family affair where you’re making memories.
- Color, draw or paint holiday inspired artwork. Bust out the special occasion glitter and create some green or red masterpieces, if your significant other is a neat freak like mine, you’ll want to warn them beforehand. St. Patrick’s Day has more iconic symbols such as shamrocks, rainbows, leprechauns chasing a pot of gold but you could encourage your children to create the flags of Italy and Ireland or draw a picture of the whole family celebrating together. Check out a recent Providence Mom post “Low Cost Craft Supplies; Five Essential Items for Crafting with Kids” for tips to build the perfect craft box for any occasion.
- Music is always a great way to showcase different cultures. Thanks to streaming titans like Youtube, Spotify, or Apple Music you can easily find Irish and Italian songs/videos for grooving around the house. Maybe show off your best River Dance skills and teach the kiddos! Maybe swing your napkin around your head and croon “That’s Amore” or (my favorite) “Mambo Italiano”. If you’re a Disney lover like myself, you can put on the Luca soundtrack and transport yourself to Portorosso, Italy for the time being.
- The last one circles back to food because NO holiday celebration would be complete without dessert. You MUST enjoy a zeppole on St. Joseph’s Day. Bakeries usually take orders days beforehand because they are such a fan favorite in March. For those of you new to the area, a zeppole is a puff pastry, fried, then sandwiched together to perfection with cannoli pastry cream or sweetened ricotta, topped with more cream, confectioners sugar and a bright red cherry. YUMMMMM! Everyone has their opinion on where to find the best zeppole in RI and you’ll even find the occasional Italian who tells you they are not a St. Joseph’s Day tradition. To which I always reply, “I’ll never turn down an excuse to eat pastries”. Now the Irish are not known for their baking skills like Italians, but there are ways to put a St. Paddy’s spin on simple classics. Lucky charms rice crispy treats and/or rainbow cupcakes are major crowd pleasers in my house.
Pro Tip – some bakeries go the extra mile and make Irish cream flavored Zeppoles.. Game changer!
Added bonus #6 just for us Warrior Parents – life can be tough, especially when the kids are still young and require 98% of you. Treat yo’ self to a night cap- maybe an Irish beer – Classic Guinness Stout or (my favorite) a fresh Italian Aperol Spritz when the day is done. If that is not your style, buy an extra dessert, hide it somewhere safe for only you (and your significant other…maybe) to enjoy when the little ones are tucked in bed. A common theme for both St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day is being grateful for family and counting your blessings. Remember that adding extra activities to your daily routine isn’t easy but it makes these trips around the sun worth it. One day when your child is passing on these traditions to their own family, your heart will skip a beat thinking how precious the circle of life is. ***Cue the Lion King theme song – YES I’m crying while writing this post. Cheers!