St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I will say, it’s kind of hard that it falls the same week as Pi Day and the Ides of March, because all three of these are really homeschoolery holidays, but we usually manage to observe it somehow. I looked around and discovered we have a whole pile of non-stress-inducing family traditions.
LUCKY CHARMS and A GLASS OF GREEN MILK for breakfast. I’m enough of a boring mom to argue in the cereal row that marshmallows aren’t breakfast food, but I buy Lucky Charms once a year to be opened ritually on St. Patrick’s Day. Then I put green food coloring in a glass of milk. Meg looks forward to it for months. In October she’ll ask with a sigh, “How long is it until St. Patrick’s Day?” and we’ll do math to calculate it.
THIS CAKE. I don’t actually like beer, so you probably won’t catch me lifting a pint, but I really like beer in a Guinness chocolate cake, especially with cream cheese frosting. Big fan. If we have company, I try to make it, and sometimes even if we don’t.
WE WEAR GREEN. It’s almost a matter of courtesy at this point. I would not wear a Welsh flag as a cape, as one young man of my acquaintance did, and he still lives in infamy for it. We don’t wear all orange, either. Just wear a little green.
Watching the VeggieTales ST. PATRICK STORY. It’s an animated flannelgraph (Ooh! Flannelgraph!). I’m sure that would be more meaningful to my children if they had ever seen a real flannelgraph, but whatever. They did a pretty good job on it, all things considered.
This year, I had an attack of historical correctness and felt the need to do some research. I mean, not to throw rocks at VeggieTales, but I think it might be time to throw rocks at VeggieTales.
What are our original sources on St. Patrick?
The short answer: Patrick wrote an autobiography! It is generally accepted as genuine, and the Royal Irish Academy has it posted online in seven languages. It’s called the Confessio, and if that sounds like Augustine’s autobiography the Confessions, that’s because it is like it. Autobiographies these days just aren’t like they used to be. Both Augustine and Patrick’s Confessions are much closer to “What God has done in my life” than “look how interesting I am.” Both Confessions were written within a hundred years of one another: Augustine’s was just before 400 AD, and Patrick’s sometime between 455-490. I wonder if Augustine’s book made it up to Patrick, maybe while he was studying in France. Patrick’s Confession isn’t that long, just about 62 paragraphs, but I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet because I’m a homeschool mom and therefore it’s really hard to read anything all the way through.
I did notice one detail VeggieTales changed. After Patrick got kidnapped by Irish pirates, in the VeggieTales version he herded pigs, but in Confessions he herded sheep. It’s possible that VeggieTales did it to tighten up the narrative, because miraculous pigs turn up later in the story. It’s also possible that VeggieTales was working from another source, because Wikipedia says one of Patrick’s names possibly translates to “swineherd.”
I was talking to a friend about Patrick’s pig-keeping versus sheep-keeping, and she pointed out that shepherding has taken on a sort of holy glow, probably partly due to Little David the Shepherd Boy and partly to that time the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock by night and an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. Pigs are not that glamorous. I think there’s something to that, though I do have kind of glamorous associations with pig-keeping from Lloyd Alexander’s Black Cauldron series. But who knows why VeggieTales makes the artistic decisions it does, really.
I’m thinking one of our new St. Patrick’s Day traditions should include bacon. I might even knit some wool.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Carolyn Bales.