St. Patrick’s Day: A wee bit of Irish traditions — food, drink, fun and lots of creativity
ABOVE: Wanda George’s kitchen contains several groupings of St. Patrick’s Day decorations. These include antiques, linens, shamrocks, gnomes, mushrooms, figurines, Longaberger baskets with green liners and a seed box.
BOTTOM RIGHT: George loves to decorate her seed box for each holiday with figurines, old postcards and things her mom gave her. St. Patrick’s Day is her favorite holiday. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
LEFT: Elizabeth Annese of McElligott School of Irish Dance performs for the residents of Mrs. Bush’s Personal Care Home Saturday.
ABOVE RIGHT: A loaf of Irish soda bread complements any St. Patrick’s Day meal. Some people prefer to bake their own, while others purchase a loaf at a grocery store or bakery.
Artist Dawn Barankovich shows her two original designs that attendees will do at her Paint and Sip on Saturday at Love 4 Art Studio in Palmerton.
This is a month of shamrocks, leprechauns, Irish dancing, Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and many shades of green as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday.
It’s all about detail
Wanda George loves to decorate her Kunkletown home for every holiday.
“I like all the holidays, but St. Patrick’s Day is my favorite because of all the green — which has been my favorite color since I was a kid — and it’s close to my birthday,” she said. “It’s a busy birthday month with my daughter, two of the grandkids and two great-grandkids.”
Her kitchen and living room contain groupings of antiques, linens, shamrocks, gnomes, mushrooms, figurines, pins, Longaberger baskets with green liners and a seed box used to display these cherished items.
“My seed box is one of my favorite groupings. I have to change it until it suits me. It has a lot of little spots to fill,” she said.
George has had the seed box for 25 to 30 years. She and her husband, Bruce, bought it at an antique barn in Waverly. For Thanksgiving, it holds turkeys. At Easter, she incorporates bunnies.
“I decorate it with antique figurines, old postcards and things my mom gave me,” she said.
When she was 15, her mother gave her a figurine set of an Irish boy and girl. She has treasured them ever since. They are displayed in the seed box.
“I didn’t have a lot of decorations years ago when my kids were little. My mom and I would make things from scraps we had,” she said.
Each year her collection of decorations grew as she received them as birthday gifts and handed down from her late mother.
George has never traveled to Ireland, but somewhere in her travels many years ago she found a pure linen tea towel with a leprechaun on it that came from Ireland.
“It looks pretty cute there on the oven handle,” she said.
While some people take pictures of their decorations to make it easier for the next year’s decorating process, George rarely does.
“I decorate from memory. Some things are in the same place. Other things I change up from year to year.”
It takes her about two days to get her treasures in the correct place. She moves things around, looks at the display from various angles and takes her time to get it right.
“I’ve been told by several people that I pay attention to the details,” she said.
Food and family
Corned beef and cabbage are paramount to St. Patrick’s Day, just as turkey and stuffing are to Thanksgiving. Add some Irish soda bread and it’s a heck of a feast.
Theresa McGuigan of Effort will spend the holiday with her husband, Jerry, and their grown daughters Vicki and Sabrina.
“We enjoy having corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and homemade Irish soda bread. Weather permitting, we will see a St. Patrick’s Day parade,” said McGuigan.
George said she will prepare a meal for her family but serve plain beef or other kind of meat with their cabbage, potatoes and buns.
Roy Barankovich of Kunkletown will cook and bake Irish soda bread for his family.
“We do it every year. It’s a tradition,” he said. “I like to cook different ethnic things.”
He’ll make corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes and carrots. He’s used the same Irish soda bread recipe for about 20 years.
“I like this recipe because it is more of a biscuit-type dough.”
Instead of brown raisins, he uses white ones. Barankovich, who does most of the cooking for his wife, son and daughter-in-law, found the recipe among his many cookbooks.
He said he enjoys baking the bread because it has more of a “personal touch than when you buy it from the store.”
Paint and party, Irish style
While the George, Barankovich and McGuigan families’ meals are just for their enjoyment, the community can partake in various events around town.
Barankovich is making a few extra loaves of bread this year for his daughter-in-law, Dawn, to share with attendees of her Paint and Sips at Love 4 Art Studio in Palmerton.
She owns Community Creations and is one of the artists/teachers within Love 4 Art, which is owned by Donna Balliet. The studio is in the back of the Kountry Krafts and Treasures store.
Attendees can choose one of her original designs, a Celtic cross with shamrock in the middle or a top hat with shamrocks shooting out like fireworks.
“The hat with clovers is for the luck of the Irish. It’s a fun, whimsical painting to put up as decoration,” she said.
Dawn Barankovich wanted to remind everyone that just like Easter, St. Patrick’s Day has both a secular aspect and a religious one.
“The shamrock and the Celtic cross are essential to St. Patrick’s Day. They represent the Holy Trinity.”
While she drew both designs free style, she will give each attendee instructions.
“The whole thing will be a stencil. They will outline the picture onto their canvas. Then, they will fill in the coloring,” she said.
Class fees cover all supplies. Saturday’s Paint and Sip is from 2 to 5 p.m. Those interested in going must register by calling Balliet at 610-295-9272. As a bonus, the first 18 people to register will receive a pair of St. Patrick’s Day socks.
Attendees can bring their own bottles of wine. Light refreshments, including the Irish soda bread, will be available.
The Sun Valley Memorial Fire Hall will host its annual dinner on Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
“We will have corned beef, cabbage, ham, carrots and Irish soda bread — all made by members,” said April Emmert, bar steward.
She loves this holiday because she is Irish.
Disc jockeys Earl ’N Carolyn will play a variety of dance music starting at 8 p.m.
Those looking for a feast and music on Sunday can purchase tickets for a St. Patrick’s Day party at American Legion Post 927 in Gilbert.
“We will have two kinds of Shepherd’s pie — beef and lamb — along with corned beef and cabbage,” said Brett Moyer, secretary of the Legion and treasurer of West End Home Association.
All food is homemade, and volunteers will begin cooking on Friday. The event is 4-8 p.m. and includes a disc jockey.
“It’s a fun holiday. We have to celebrate,” Moyer said.
The craic is mighty
In Ireland there is a popular saying, “The craic is mighty.” Craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment and enjoyable conversation, according to an article on www.irishcentral.com.
While the Poconos are no Dublin — Ireland’s capital and popular place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — the craic will be mighty at local festivals, pubs and parades this week.
“We travel all over the Pocono Mountain area. The kids love performing and look forward to the month of March. It’s a big deal for us,” said Heather McElligott Stark, director of the McElligott School of Irish Dance in Stroudsburg.
This month, they will perform at nursing homes, churches, Siamsa Irish Pub, Stroudsburg’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, Masthope Irish Festival, Woodloch Irish festival and other celebrations.
“It’s a holiday we get to share. It’s a happy, fun, crazy time as we run from event to event,” she said. “The audience picks up on the dancers’ enthusiasm.”
The school has 50 students, from age 4 and up.
“We have a special class for performance. They work extra hard this season. They take regular classes plus this one,” Stark said.
The students compete throughout the year. March is the month to perform for fun.
“They delight in the aspect of performing at St. Patrick’s Day parties and events,” she said.
Jim Thorpe will not host a parade this year. Instead, Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency planned its inaugural Irish Fest for last weekend and this weekend.
“We are excited to start new traditions and pick up where the parade left off,” Jennifer Christman, JTTA president, said in a press release.
Events include Irish brunch at St. Mark’s Church and Emerald Isle Step Dancers performing at Josiah White Park on Saturday; a Celtic brunch with live music at Café Arielle on Sunday; and bagpiper Eric Flowers roaming through town Saturday and Sunday.
For those 21 and older, there is a Kilt Crawl at noon and 3 p.m. Saturday to five bars. It starts at Stone Row Pub and ends at Molly Maguires. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Participants must wear a kilt or tartan skirt.
“I’m expecting a big crowd that day, as well as Sunday,” said Mark Behan, co-owner of Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse.