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St. Patrick’s Day: How personal tradition defines the way we celebrate our holidays

 

By Sinead Mulhern

When St. Patrick’s Day rolled around each year while I was growing up in Alberta, my mom and I would get to work whipping up batches upon batches of clover-shaped cookies. In the middle of March, winter showed no signs of letting up in the Prairies and so it only seemed natural to stay inside, roll out the dough and fill the house with the agonizingly sweet smell of nearly-baked goods. In our prep, we’d throw into the bowl flour as powdery as the snow heaps outside and whirl it together with crystals of white sugar. While they baked, we mixed up the icing – green of course – ready to coat each little clover with a generous layer. Then, I’d proudly bring them to school to share with my classmates. Being  the Irish kid in the class, it was my special treat.

As traditions go, this possibly was simply an idea one year, before carrying on to the next and the next. Eventually, supplying my peers with these shamrock treats became part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine. Once, I even remember when Paddy’s Day eve rolled around and we had both forgotten so we woke up extra early and baked a double batch together in the indigo blue pre-dawn hours.

At school, I’d pass around the green snacks,  press play to an accordion tune and perform one of the jigs which I learned at dance practice in Edmonton’s Irish club. During those years, St. Patrick’s Day was the celebration of the country where both my parents were born and lived in until their mid-twenties. For me, it was green cookies and dancing and, of course, church and Irish brunch.

The latter would be standard for many Irish households living both in the stocking-shaped emerald isle or abroad – like us. The former though, are traditions we created ourselves. When the calendar turns to March 17, many in Canada will celebrate by clinking pints of Guinness or green-dyed beer. Packs of university students in North America will wear obnoxious amounts of green with probably at least one top hat and kiss-me-I’m-Irish sash in every group. In Ireland, some relatives of mine will take in mass and a breakfast of eggs and sausages after. Green sugar cookies will be few and far between, I know.

Though we religiously kept up our tradition for years, it eventually faded. I grew past the age where it would have been appropriate to pass around baked goods in class and we moved across the country,  well away from our Alberta kitchen with the snow piles out the window. While the sugary clover cutouts became a thing of the past, my mother’s and my love for working with food didn’t wane. Out were the cookies, in was the baked soda bread (a classic) or a piping hot pot of Irish stew (even more classic). Together, we busied our hands putting together recipes that were, this time, symbolic of the place where my mom grew up.

When I left home and moved to Toronto, I kept up our tradition of making food on this day even though we no longer lived in the same household. Just as I did when I was seven, I again made a point of sharing it with school friends. For a few years during this chapter in my life, I avoided the tacky party celebrations and instead whipped up a pot of Irish stew and a fresh loaf of bread for my best lady friend. Together, we drank beer well into the evening.

The food that I now make on this day is traditional, yes. But my tradition of working away in the kitchen on (or just before) March 17, and sharing with friends has nothing to do with Paddy’s Day really. That habit stems from the days I spent mixing sugar cookies with my mom. The food has changed over time, the activity has not. This is how I, a daughter of two Irish immigrant parents, choose to spend this day. It’s interesting, how the customs we make for ourselves somehow have the most importance. Our personalized celebrations often trump how holidays are typically celebrated by the masses.

This year, the tradition, for me, has changed yet again. For the first time, I won’t be in Canada for this Irish holiday. I now reside in Colombia – over 6,000 kilometres away from that Alberta home and 4,000 kilometres away from my mom. The traditions I’ve set for myself will continue to evolve as I celebrate this holiday and the ones to come. As we head into Paddy’s Day, my mom and I have already discussed our menus. She’ll make her St. Patrick’s Day stew on the weekend whereas I’ve made mine already. The difference: mine contained a cup not of Guinness, but a local beer: Club Colombia Negra.

Ditch the cards this Valentine’s Day

I’m not a card person – to me, it’s a waste of paper. You read the messages inside and then, as soon as the person who gave it to you leaves, it goes in the recycling bin. Some people will keep it on a desk or a bookshelf, propped up for a few weeks like some sort of artwork, but, at the end of the day, whether it’s that week or months from today, the card always gets tossed away. So, what’s the point?

According to Hallmark, one of the biggest card companies in North America, approximately 114 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged on February 15, not including the packages you may give to your kids in elementary school. Surprisingly, this is the second largest holiday for cards!

It is natural, to want to do something small for someone you care about. Getting a card is no big deal — it shows you care, but doesn’t offer a commitment of gifts or events. It’s a “look, I remembered you”, giveaway. It doesn’t really mean much, especially if there is nothing personal written within it.

Cards are also, unexpectedly expensive. They range from $3.50 to $10 depending on where you get it from. Most have generic prose spread across the page in fancy cursive fonts that are incredibly difficult to read, not to mention the message is generally sappy and cliche. There really is no good reason to buy a card for someone. Can you think of one?

Here is my two cents. Instead of spending five dollars on a card to express your love, why not try something truly original:

  1. Actually talk to your partner and tell him/her you love them. No one needs a folded piece of paper with a photo of two children in a cute embrace and the words “Happy Valentine’s Day” to enjoy the holiday. Sometimes, a simple greeting in person, over text, or even a Facebook message will brighten someone’s day. In this age of technology, there are so many options. Why limit yourself to paper?

    If you really want to go the paper route – why not try putting little sticky notes on mirrors and in cupboards where your partner can find it? It’s cute, but no one expects you to keep the sticky notes afterwards.

  2. The key to a romantic Valentine’s Day is to create memories. While gifts and cards are nice, your partner will remember if you make them a tasty dinner or take them out for an evening stroll. Technology is great, but anyone can wish someone happy birthday, anniversary, and even happy Valentine’s Day. You want to make your day stand out and the way to do that is to ditch the cards and gifts and focus on the experience.
  3. If memories aren’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with jewellery or chocolates. If you want to give a gift, make it a real gift and not just a piece of stock paper with a pre-determined message inside. This doesn’t have to be something expensive. Pick up some flowers or send your partner to work with a pre-made, cutesy lunch made of heart-shaped things. Anything is better than a card!

What do you think? Will you be sending a loved one a card? Let us know in the comments below!

Fun gift ideas for your kids this Christmas

I’m sure your holiday shopping list is already long enough, but have you started actually buying your holiday gifts yet? When it comes to the children in our lives, whether it’s your own kids, nephews, nieces or little cousins, the best gifts you can give them during the holidays is a sense of family and fun. But, they will still be looking out for gifts from Santa under that tree, so here are some toy ideas for the little ones in your life, or maybe for yourself because we are all kids at heart.

Colouring Books

So, colouring books have changed a lot since the 90s. Somehow, within the last year or so, colouring books became fun again, with many targeting adults as a stress reliever. With that being said, there are many options available for kids with beautiful illustrations. If your kids are into Harry Potter, consider getting them a Harry Potter Colouring book by Scholastic. This book also comes with many different options under the HP theme, including magical creatures and magical places. This book is recommended for ages 8-99 on the Scholastic website.

Personalized Bedtime Book

This one is definitely geared towards the younger kids. Give them the opportunity to get excited while seeing a character of themselves come to life in a version of their favourite bedtime story. Places like Me Bookz lets you choose your storyline, upload a picture of your child, add in details, and place your order for a hard copy version of your child’s story. You can also add an additional character to the story, just in case you want to add in your child’s favourite/ or annoying sibling. This gift is definitely something your child can hold onto and cherish even as they get older.

Chocolate Pen

If you have a little one that’s chocolate obsessed, why not give them the unique and yummy option of writing with a chocolate pen. This isn’t an actual pen made of chocolate, but a pen that dispenses liquid chocolate which hardens at room temperature. This opportunity allows your child to draw little 3-D versions of their treats before they eat them. This makes decorating cookies even easier and promotes creativity for your child. The Chocolate Pen also comes with different colours of chocolate, including white chocolate, pink and blue. The kit also comes with different candy moulds so your child can feel like a true master chocolatier.

PlayStation 4 Slim/ Nintendo Switch

If you have a child, or even a teenager that’s been after you to get the Playstation 4 , but you’re not willing to commit to the price, try going slimmer. The Playstation 4 Slim was released late last year and costs a fraction of the original Playstation 4. if you’re looking for the hottest option this year, price aside, the Nintendo Switch is generating a lot of positive buzz in the gaming world.

Hatchimals

This is an interesting one. I’ve seen it quite a lot of them while shopping around. The Hatchimals seems to be the latest craze for young kids, where children can watch and wait in anticipation as their new toy pet hatches out of an egg. This magical egg offers a thrilling surprise as your children learn about nurturing and love. Hatchimals even comes with a surprise twin option or various different critters that your child can watch grow.

Popin Cookin Kits

Unusual, cute and unique, these Popin Cookin kits by Kracie are popular in placed like Japan, where users of all ages are invited to craft miniature versions of food. I will admit, I have watched many You Tube videos on this trend and it’s quite fascinating. Your kids can craft miniature donuts, hamburgers, complete with fries and a soda or even sushi, pizza and ramen. These kits can be ordered on Amazon or maybe you can find one in a random grocery store in Little Italy like I did.

An Experience Coupon

This may be the most creative gift you give your child or children in your life. Think about their interests and take them on a fun outing for the holidays. Maybe it’s a trip to the spa to pamper your princess with her first manicure or a trip to the aquarium to delight them with creatures of the sea. Any memories made are worth more than a dozen presents.

Merry Christmas Shopping and let us know in the comments below what you plan to buy for your kids.