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National Holiday!


Tuesday 13 March 2018

It’s March and so our thoughts turn to celebrating our National Holiday…St Patrick's Day. Harps and Shamrocks abound and everything appears though a greenish haze. Leprechauns and shillelaghs are produced and we all feel proud to be Irish. Indeed, the whole world seems to claim Irishness, with rivers dyed green and buildings bathed in green lights.

And for the children in our settings, what does all this green induced culture mean, how do they perceive it?

Of course, it’s fun! Getting decked out in shades of green and hearing tales of St Patrick banishing snakes seems exotic, strange and intriguing. No doubt about that!

But how do we convey a sense of what it really means to be Irish to our children? Do we know, for example, what nationality each child in our settings see themselves as?  Aistear views Identity and Belonging as a way to support the learning of young children. Síolta also sees Identity and Belonging as key. When we look around the children in our setting, what are the ways in which we support children to see themselves and their home lives valued and respected in the setting?

By talking to parents and families we can find out what cultures and traditions the families celebrate and value. I think we can sometimes assume that everyone values the same things as we do. This isn’t necessarily the case. Ask the children what they know about St Patrick's Day. The older children especially might recall last years’ parade, if they live in or near an urban area. For others, the parade may be something seen on television. For children who are not born Irish, their perception and lived experience will be different as the national identity they live with could be very different.

What do we know of the cultures and traditions of these children? Involving them in the celebration of St Patrick's day is important of course and will deepen their sense of belonging. But equally it is important that we know about, acknowledge and celebrate their family culture and traditions too. This contributes to their sense of identity, makes families feel more included and supports all children to feel comfortable and enjoy difference.

And remember, that the real interest in the green celebration may come about after the day itself, when children have had the experience of the parade or other celebration. Look at this podcast on The Parade Party, from the Aistear Siolta Practice Guide

This Scéalta post, while relating to Christmas, is also worth re reading as it relates to following the children interests even after the event has passed: 
Keeping the Magic Alive

And for more ideas on making the St Patrick's Day celebrations more meaningful, click here



Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester, at Pen Green.

Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play! 

1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Eadaoin Brennan says:

    Good article and helps with practitioners to understand the deeper meaning behind celebrating festivals and understanding other cultures. This is much more relevant in Ireland today. Annette.

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