Once upon a shamrock

Images of three leaf clovers are popping up all over as Valley families with Irish roots prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland. A nifty PBS “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” multifaith calendar says he’s “credited with spreading Christianity in Ireland and abolishing pagan practices in the fourth century” — noting that he used the shamrock to “explain the mystery of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.”

Turns out lots of religious holidays happen this month. March 8 was Purim in Judaism, Holi (the festival of colors) in Hinduism and Magha Puja Day (honoring Buddha’s birthday) in Buddhism. Scientologists celebrate the birth of founder L. Ron Hubbard on March 13, and Christians follow the March 17 celebration of St. Patrick with “Saint Joseph’s Day” in honor of “the earthly father of Jesus” on March 18.

I’m no Irish scholar, but I’ve got a Scotch-Irish spouse and green eyes that protect me from the pinch, and something tells me St. Patrick would have expected more of people than a day spent pub crawling. So while others are trolling for green beer, consider exploring family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day fare with an arts and culture twist.

Families can enjoy Irish music, dance and more at the Phoenix St. Patrick’s Day parade first held in 1983. Its purpose, according to the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix, is “to preserve and enhance the heritage and traditions of the Irish Culture as well as share that culture with the citizens of Arizona.” For some it’s “a traditional day for spiritual renewal and offering prayers for missionaries worldwide.”

This year’s parade begins Sat, March 17 at 10am — with a parade from the Irish Cultural Center to Margaret T. Hance Park,  where the rest of the day’s activities unfold. I had a great time at last year’s festival seeing parents carting green-clad children around in decorated strollers and wagons, and watching older couples getting “jig” with it as Irish dance music floated from stage to the lovely lawns just right for dancing.

Remember, as you’re celebrating Irish arts and culture, that the Irish are but one of many groups to immigrate to America — something profoundly illustrated near the end of the musical “In the Heights” when the sign over a business sold by a Latino couple comes down only to reveal an earlier sign from a business run by Irish Americans. Circles of lifes of life, circles of culture — all worth celebrating.

The Phoenix Symphony performs “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” Sat, March 17 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. Families can “follow and interact with Sam-I-Am” as he rhymes his way through the classic Seuss tale told by folks from The Phoenix Symphony and Valley Youth Theatre. Best to read “Green Eggs and Ham” rather than eat them.

Folks seeking authentic Irish fare can head to a little neighborhood joint in Scottsdale called Randy’s, or hit the MIM Cafe at the Musical Instrument Museum – where the chef often sets the mood for celebrations of holidays and world culture with special menu items created with fresh Arizona-grown ingredients.

The MIM presents a five-piece acoustic Irish band called Trotters Wake Thurs, March 15 at 6pm. I’m told they perform “new and old Irish drinking songs, rebel songs, ballads, and traditional instrumental tunes” on acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle and electric bass. Or hit the MIM between noon and 3pm to enjoy Tramor/Overseas performing traditional Welsh music with bagpipes, flutes, whistles, mandolins, guitar, percussion, storytelling and dance. Then tour the museum’s collection of European instruments to learn more about materials used in making bagpipes and such.

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix art studio, open from 10am to 3pm, is featuring arts and crafts with a St. Patrick’s Day vibe through Sat, March 17. Think shamrock hats, lucky leprechaun wands and green playdough. They’re also celebrating artists Georgia O’Keefe and Salvador Dali and continuing ongoing projects like painting a giant rocket, playing in the puppet theater, and exploring plenty of books and toys.

You’ll find oodles of other fun activities in print and online editions of the Raising Arizona Kids Magazine calendar — including St. Patrick’s Day events presented by Lakeshore Learning Stores, Local Lily, Shamrock Farms and Hubbard Family Swim School.

I’ll be celebrating by revisiting the works of great Irish writers like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and finishing a dark little work by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. Now that our three kids are in college, we can indulge our drive to spend more time on reading and reflection.

Those of you with younger children can seize St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to read with your children about Irish history and culture, or to remind them of the many gifts immigrants continue to bestow upon our country.

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity. — George Bernard Shaw

– Lynn

Note: If your arts and culture organization is offering a family-friendly event or activity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, please comment below to let our readers know. Click here to learn more about submitting event information to our calendar editor.

Coming up: Dancing with the real stars

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