Hailing from the Emerald Isle, many Irishmen and women sought refuge in America and thus shaped the culture of the United States. With heartwarming Irish blessings eluding to brighter tomorrows, Irish Americans symbolize perpetual optimism. As we celebrate spring and Saint Patrick’s Day in the month of March, let’s also toast to National Irish-American Heritage Month, and plan a month filled with all things Irish, utilizing the activity ideas listed below.
MUSIC – Plan a weekly Irish sing-along with your group and, towards the end of the month, host a concert performance with your Irish choir. Participants will become familiar with the songs each week and will sing with confidence at the end of the month. This could be the start of a new choir at your community. If your community is large, consider inviting other sections to join your choir. Perhaps you have a retired choir director living at your community – ask him or her to lead or co-lead the group with your assistance.
CELEBRATION – Everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, so celebrate with a “Luck o’ the Irish” St. Patty’s Day Celebration. Hire an Irish entertainer to play pub or folk songs for the event. If you can’t find an Irish entertainer, most entertainers offer themed performances, and St. Patrick’s Day is sure to be one of their themes. Encourage participants to come dressed in green. Serve green food, such as celery, green peppers, green cupcakes, and, of course, green “beer.” Greet your crowd with an Irish toast before turning it over to the entertainer, and be sure to end with an Irish blessing.
FOOD – While your dining team may be planning a traditional corned beef and cabbage meal for St. Patrick’s Day, whip up these delicious Irish Soda Bread Muffins during your next cooking group: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, instruct participants to assist with the recipe, based on their skills and abilities. Start by lining a muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together 1½ cups of unbleached flour, ¾ cup of wheat flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, ⅓ cup of sugar, 1½ cups of currants or raisins, and 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds (optional). In a separate bowl, whisk together one egg, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Avoid over-stirring as this can cause the dough to be tough. Once mixed, spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about ¾ full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in the pan for five minutes, and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before serving. This recipe yields 12 muffins.
COGNITIVE – Invigorate the minds of your group by writing collaborative limericks. A limerick is a funny poem consisting of five lines with a distinctive rhyme and rhyme pattern. (Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme; lines 3 and 4 rhyme.) To help with the creative process, read a few published limericks to your group before writing one together. Then, think of a person or occupation, and place, and go from there. Limericks typically start with “There once was a (insert occupation or person here) from (insert place name here).” If writing a limerick from scratch is too difficult for your group, modify this activity by removing parts of an already published limerick and then ask your group to fill in the blanks. For example, omit the words in parentheses and fill in the blanks to create your own limerick:
“There once was a young lady named (bright)
Whose (speed) was much (faster) than (light)
She set out one (day)
In a (relative way)
And (returned) on the (previous night).”
FAMILY – Plan a mini Shamrock Shuffle race at your community. Depending on the weather, this event can be held indoors or outdoors. Determine a distance that fits your community: ½ mile, one mile, or two miles. The distance doesn’t need to be exact – this event is all about having fun while moving. Map out the course and post signs and staff at corners to point participants in the right direction. Be sure to have a clearly marked start and finish line. At the finish line, ask two staff members to hold a strip of crepe paper for the first place participant to break through as he or she crosses the finish line. For those who have difficulty walking, encourage family members to push their loved ones in a wheelchair so that they can participate together. Consider ordering custom made t-shirts for participants. This requires a little planning ahead of time, so be sure to advertise the event in your community’s newsletter and create flyers to distribute to spread the word. Afterwards, serve healthy refreshments, such as fruit, veggies, and water.
SPIRITUAL – Use this Irish proverb about youth and old age: Young people don’t know what old age is, and old people forget what youth was. Copy and paste the proverb in a word document and enlarge the print for group members. Ask someone to read the proverb and then discuss it as a group. Prompt participants with these questions:
- What do you think the proverb means when it says, “Young people don’t know what old age is”?
- What did old age mean to you as a young person?
- What does old age mean to you now?
- How have you changed as you’ve gotten older?
- Do you agree that “the schoolhouse bell sounds sweet in old age”?
You can also find other proverbs and Irish blessings on this website page: http://islandireland.com/Pages/folk/sets/proverb.html. Pick a few of your favorites and print them out for group members to read. Then, dig deeper by asking questions about the proverb or blessing.
CRAFTS – Spread the Luck o’ the Irish theme throughout your community by creating Irish leprechaun hat centerpieces for your dining room tables. You’ll need a small terra cotta pot for each person, green paint, paint brushes, table protectors, scissors, glue, black ribbon, small belt buckles, and a foam shamrock, found at your local craft or discount store. (If you can’t find foam or sticker shamrocks, make your own by cutting out a shamrock shape from green card stock paper.) To begin, spread out your table protectors and instruct residents to paint the terra cotta pots green. Turn the pot topside down and paint the entire outside of the pot, including the bottom. Once the paint has dried, measure out a strip of black ribbon just slightly longer than the circumference of the pot, where the lower portion of the pot meets the outer rim of the pot. Weave the ribbon through the belt buckle, then wrap the ribbon around the lower part of the pot and glue in place. Decorate with a foam shamrock and place throughout your community.
SENSORY KIT – Create a “Luck o’ the Irish” sensory bin and use throughout the month of March. Start with an empty clear plastic container and fill with dried split peas. Toss in plastic gold coins, mini black pots, and shamrocks, easily found at your local discount store. Add a few plastic scoops for residents to explore with, or encourage them to dig through the peas with their hands. Because this sensory bin contains small objects, use with supervision, such as during one-on-one visits.
INTERGENERATIONAL – Reach out to your local dance studio and invite a group to perform Irish dancing at your community. Afterwards, serve shamrock-shaped cookies and green punch.
GIVING BACK – Give back this month by spreading Irish cheer throughout your community. Create Sham-o-Grams by tracing and cutting out shamrock shapes from green paper. During the first two weeks prior to St. Patrick’s Day, make the Sham-o-Grams available for residents, families, and staff to write encouraging notes to other residents, family, or staff. You can even set up a Sham-o-Gram station in your activity room or near the reception area in your building. Post signs describing the activity and leave a few pens out along with the paper shamrocks and a container to collect written notes. Then, on St. Patrick’s Day, (or the date of your choice), deliver the Sham-o-Grams to the recipients.
LUCK O’ THE IRISH TRIVIA
- What are the three colors of the Irish flag? Orange, green, and white
- What is the “profession” of the leprechaun? Cobbler or shoemaker
- By legend, if you kiss this stone in Ireland, you are sure to receive the gift of gab. What is it called? The Blarney Stone
- True or False: Irish Christians are relieved of their Lenten vows on St. Patrick’s Day. True
- Waterford, Ireland, is popularly known for making what? Crystal
- True or False: St. Patrick was never canonized. True, he is an honorary saint.
- According to tradition, St. Patrick drove which creature out of Ireland? Snakes
- Finish the lyric, “When Irish eyes are _____________.” Smiling
- If you don’t wear this color on St. Patrick’s Day, you risk getting pinched. Green
- What is the capital of Ireland? Dublin
LUCK O’ THE IRISH THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
May the troubles be less and your blessings be more,
And nothing but happiness come through your door.
~ Irish blessing
“Luck o’ the Irish” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2017 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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