March 16, 2011
Adoptive parents often wonder how they should combine their own cultural traditions with that of their children. There’s an easy lesson in the history of St. Patrick’s Day, which comes from the religious significance of Lent (read Adoption Preparation and Mardi Gras). According to Roman Catholic church teaching, the forty days prior to Easter are a time of fasting and prayer. During Lent, weddings, baptisms, and other celebrations of joy are postponed until the Easter season. Right in the middle of this period of solace on March 17, 461 CE, tradition and some historical evidence indicates St. Patrick died of old age, Normally, the remembrance of his death would be kept low-key due to the tradition of Lent.
However, the feast of St. Patrick is the only feast day celebrated during the holy season of Lent. According to legend, the Irish people were given special permission from the Pope to break their fast and celebrate the life of their patron. The importance of "claiming" Irish inheritance for the day comes from the fact that this papal permission only applied to the Irish. Many of the traditions correspond to this exclusive privilege as well.The "wearing of the green" originates with the Irish Guard wearing shamrocks in honor of St. Patrick’s day. Supposedly the Saint used the shamrock to teach the Irish pagans about the Holy Trinity: three leaves on one stem.
The Irish diaspora provides a lesson in preserving cultural heritage in foreign settings. St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in the American colonies as early as 1737 to protest the mistreatment of Irish servants and soldiers. Today St. Patrick’s day is celebrated in South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, Canada and Japan. In the mid-1990s, the Irish government decided to use St. Patrick’s Day to showcase Irish culture and heritage. The popularity and visibility of the holiday has only increased since then.
If you’re struggling with how to preserve your adopted children’s heritage, consider the Irish example. The Irish enjoy a good legend, and those legends have become an inseparable part of the Irish experience. The collective memory can be an ambassador to others. A strong cultural identity will help adopted children find their place as adults. As their family, consider ways to help international orphans identify the heroes and legends of their homelands and find a way to celebrate their own "St. Patrick’s Day”
We would love for you to comment with your ideas to increase cultural knowledge and identity in your family to help inspire others and make a difference to even more children.
Go further: This week, Adoption Education Coordinator, Judy Miller, shared a moving blog about negative feelings about birth culture in a child that was adopted.