No one enjoyed celebrating the holidays more than my aunt Connie. Every one of them, big and small, was a reason to have fun. She loved to dress up in the color of the season and bring us traditional foods. She might wear a red blouse for Valentine’s Day, send a “Happy Sweet 16” card to a 90-year-old for April Fool’s Day, or bake St. Joseph’s pastries on March 19. She always celebrated in some way.
One of the most fun holidays was St. Patrick’s Day. We wore green and ate corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread. For dessert, my aunt brought cupcakes with green frosting. People in my neighborhood decorated with paper shamrocks or leprechauns taped to the inside of their windows.
I’ve been dismayed in recent years to see an explosion of disposable items for sale to celebrate this and other holidays. Stores advertise cheaply made tissue-thin scarves with green shamrocks, plastic hats and light-up necklaces, and green paper plates and napkins.
Possibly the most wasteful holiday items that I have seen are glitter-covered “scatter foam” shapes sold as table decorations. I suspect that these sparkled plastic shamrocks and gold coins go right in the garbage after the holiday ends, destined for the landfill.
I think that we can retain the fun spirit of our favorite holidays without using these throwaway products. For St. Patrick’s Day, wear a green blouse, necklace, or brooch in an emerald hue. Or sport a scarf or necktie with a Celtic knot pattern. For the party, use a green linen tablecloth instead of a disposable paper or plastic one. You can reuse it next year and it is much more elegant, too!
We can use paper decorations instead of buying plastic or glitter-covered items. Or skip the decorations and send e-greeting cards, take in a show that features traditional music or dance, or even attend a parade. And for me, traditional food is an important part of holidays, classic dishes like colcannon (cabbage with mashed potatoes) for St. Patrick’s Day — and maybe even some green frosted cupcakes!
This post was originally published on March 11, 2020.