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Julia’s Slice of Life: Make St. Patrick's Day a Family Affair

St. Patrick’s Day is a happy holiday, known for its parades and green rivers and friends cheers-ing with mugs of green beer. While the latter gets much of the attention in our culture, St. Patrick’s Day is also a fun day for families. I talked with some local moms about ways in which they make the Irish holiday a family affair.

Crown Point resident Shanna Irish-Fyke (yes, Irish is in her name) grew up celebrating the holiday with fervor because of her family roots. “My father's side of the family is Irish, so celebrating St. Patrick's Day was just a normal part of my childhood,” she says. “I was taught to be proud of my heritage and have enjoyed researching and learning where my roots were formed. I want to pass that on to my children.”

A mother of three, Shanna has established annual family traditions like leprechaun trapping. During the week of St. Patrick’s, her kids set traps throughout the house with hopes of successfully catching a leprechaun. “Most of the time they are disappointed to find only a trail of rainbow candies and a pile of gold coins instead of the leprechaun,” Shanna says. “They do, however, get a laugh out of the havoc the leprechauns have done on our shoes--removing the laces, hiding one, knotting the laces together; typical mischief!” The kids also hunt for coins that the leprechaun has hidden throughout the house.

Shanna is a reading interventionalist at Lake Street Elementary in Crown Point and has her kindergarten students design leprechaun traps as well, in conjunction with reading the book The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day. “The students can be as creative and elaborate with the designing of their traps as they want… Sadly I have yet to have a student successfully trap a leprechaun.”

There are endless ways for families to celebrate the Irish holiday. Some of Shanna’s other suggestions: have green eggs for breakfast; play games like musical shamrocks, leprechaun naming, or a potato toss; make a leprechaun from shaving cream and Cheetos; attend the parades; or go to a local fire station dinner or an Irish cultural center.

Michelle Samardzija of Valparaiso, owner of Mad Momma Events and mom of two, recommends the following activities:

  • Spray paint plastic eggs gold and fill with coins to have a “gold hunt” instead of an Easter egg hunt.
  • “Taste the Rainbow” with various foods and fruit that represent all the colors.
  • Dig in to old party supplies and go for a rainbow-themed event. This way you can use and reuse decorations.
  • Make traditional Rice Krispie treats, but swap cereals and use Lucky Charms instead.
  • Play simple “Minute to Win It” games: sort the Crunch Berries, balance Fruit Loops, thread Fruit Loops, inhale the Skittles straw game, and stack the pennies.
  • Concoct a green punch with sherbet, Sprite, and ginger ale.
  • Play a game of hot potato.
  • Make a cute photo booth prop for friends and family to take pictures.

If you’re looking to celebrate outside the home, check out some family-friendly activities happening throughout the region on March 17:

Crown Point’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration: This daylong event includes a corned beef and cabbage dinner at the fire station, vendors on the square, a downtown window decorating contest, a one-mile race, performances by the Lake County Pipes and Drums, and the signature event: a lighted night parade.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Fundraiser: This fundraiser for Rittenhouse Senior Living in Portage features an Irish-themed lunch, dancing to Irish music, and a photo booth. The proceeds from the event will benefit the Bonner Senior Center and Maria Reiner Center.

Leprechaun Fest: Bellaboo’s Play and Discovery Center in Lake Station invites kids to partake in a host of St. Patrick’s Day-related activities: rainbow sensory bins, handprint clover art, making shamrock shakes, green flying science, pot of gold play, and a photo booth.

Whatever you choose to do, Shanna suggests embracing the fun of the holiday. “The Irish are quite fun people,” she says. “Just enjoying getting together is enough to make St. Patrick's Day special, so fill your home with friends and laughter and learn a jig or two.”

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