This was not the most frugal week ever as we had not one, but two special occasions.
Isn’t that just typical? Nothing much for ages, and then everything happens at once. This year D and I decided to make a special deal out of St Patrick’s Day; and we were also privileged to see two beautiful people get married. I had a great time at both events, enjoying the company of some of the people I love the most. Special occasions can mean you spend more money than usual, but they don’t have to break the bank.
Now I have a few kid-free mornings, I have more energy to entertain and to put more effort into celebrations. I think celebrations and traditions are vital for families: they teach a child their family history, culture or religion; traditions help instil a sense of belonging, they help mark the passing of the year, and can bring generations together.
D and I are pretty intentional about what cultural or religious events we do or do not observe. For instance, we don’t do Halloween, and Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy don’t visit our house. But Christmas and Easter are still a big deal, so are Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthdays. We also have our own traditions that are special to our family, like our family and whanau nights, breakfast in bed on your birthday, and Gordon ‘sandwiches’ (someone yells ‘Gordon sandwich!’and we all have a group hug).
This year we want to mark a few ‘Saint days’. While St Patrick’s Day has largely morphed into a cultural holiday of craic and drinking rather than a religious observance, I am more than happy to mark this day, and for my children to learn about the life of St Patrick, and indeed, about other key figures in Christian history.
I put together a fun St Patrick’s Day party on a shoestring budget. Here’s how I did it:
- Make it potluck. This is the norm in New Zealand fortunately! I provided the main dish of Beef and Guinness stew, along with peas, green apple spritzer, and lime jelly. As is often the way, we ended up with a feast. Soda bread, scalloped potatoes, lamb, an all green salad, and several green desserts.
- Keep decorations simple. I am not an OTT, decorate-anything-that’s-nailed-down sort of person, but I do like to put up a few special things to signify that it’s special event time. I had some green card left over from Christmas cards my kids made, so I made some shamrock bunting. I also found some lovely Irish blessings online, and put them up around the dining table. Some green flowers reduced to clear were the finishing touch. I decorated the children’s table with shamrocks and wrote their names on their place setting (Big hit! Plus I strategically seated my son far, far away from my friend’s son who he likes to pick on, I dislike this phase). The best thing is I can re-use the bunting and blessings in the years to come.
- Make it meaningful. I spoke one of the blessings over the group as our grace before the meal. After the meal we all sat down to watch the excellent BBC kid’s show Let’s Celebrate. If you aren’t familiar with this show, it follows children as they celebrate cultural and religious holidays (They look at ALL faiths too, which I appreciate). They have a great episode all about St Patrick’s Day which follows two girls in Northern Island as they get ready for the day. Let’s Celebrate always goes into the history and meaning of each event, and this bit is acted out by kids. It’s gorgeous! You can watch the St Patrick’s Day video on YouTube here. It wasn’t only the children who learnt a lot from this episode, many of our guests didn’t know much about St Patrick.
- Unleash the craic! I don’t think anyone does a party quite like the Irish. To their credit, all our guests played along with my shenanigans. We wores green, played Irish music in the background, D led us on the guitar in old-fashioned sing-a-long, and we played a hilarious ‘Minute to Win It’ game I found on Pinterest, called the Shamrock Shake (which I now can’t find to link to it, sorry). Basically you fill a tissue box with balls (or plastic eggs in my case, which I have for Easter), tie it over your bottom, and shake, shake, shake to see who gets the most eggs out. It was very funny, and even my 2 and a half year old got the gist of it.
I’m looking forward to next year already.