It was a mostly green table for the Quilt Groups, with the exception of gold coins and a potato!
Even though I wasn't planning on getting into the religious history, I figured I better at least remind myself about the Patron Saint of Ireland and his use of the shamrock. There were quite a few Irish Catholics in my groups who were pretty happy to share.
What to Drink!
But mostly the groups wanted to talk about the fun stuff. Like what do people drink on St. Patrick's Day? Green tea? Probably not. But green beer and Irish whiskey came up a lot!
In my first group, my dear friend Betty actually brought me a little leprechaun gift. This came in handy as a prop to discuss the folklore involving the little fellow and his pot of gold and the rainbow. In fact it's amazing how many folks were sort of looking like leprechauns with all the green and gold hats.
We talked about Irish dance, especially clogging and jigging. I brought the old wooden "Limberjack" to use with our Irish jig music. First I just demonstrated and they watched how the little man danced along with each tap on the board. Then everyone got a turn, which took a lot of cooperation.
We needed someone to hold down the end of the board and another to hold the dowel that held the man and one more person to tap or pat the board to make him dance and jump
It was fun to watch the expressions as each got a turn. At first there was lots of concentration, getting set up and trying it out. And then the crazy surprise movements of the little wooden man, suddenly had whole table laughing. Even though I pasted a shamrock on the puppet to help him imitate a dancing leprechaun, we all determined he failed at the art of Irish dance. Irish dancers do not whip their arms like windmills.
Note: I hear leprechauns have the ability to disappear. I see he did just that, in the picture above! Where did he go?
Shamrock or 4-Leaf Clover?
In the States we see a lot of St. Pat decorations using 4-leaf clovers. That's supposed to be lucky after all. You need to have the Luck of the Irish to find one, since only about 1 in 10,000 real clovers have 4 leaves.
So we did a little research and reminded ourselves that all shamrocks are clovers, but not all clovers are shamrocks. A shamrock has 3 leaves and evidently St. Patrick used one as a prop to teach about the Holy Trinity. So we decided we should focus on the 3-leaf clover if we want to look like we know anything!
I found a great book on the history of the NYC's St. Patrick's Day parades, that that have been happening since 1762! Ken said he remembered sitting on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral and watching the parade as a child.
Mary, who grew up in New Orleans had different St. Pat Parade memories. She remembers the potatoes that were tossed from floats. Since we had a potato on the table, we did our own tossing. We turned on some lively Irish music and passed it around the table until the music stopped.
Whoever was holding the potato when the music stopped got a coin! (Opposite of the hot potato loser) I didn't give away these old Irish coins that I collected as a child, but I had some dime store "gold coins"
to give to the winners. One winner announced, "Just like the gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow!" We all tried to ignore the "Made in China" print on the back.
What Did I Learn?
I learned a little something about prizes and surprises. I was pleasantly surprised when Betty gave me the leprechaun gift. When a gentleman who had just been observing one of my groups, later handed me a drawing he'd done, I was touched. What nice surprises.
However the coin prizes I handed out to my kids group at the shelter, did not go over as well. Before I even got out the door, kids were fighting over the coins. "Joe took mine!" I took out a marker and wrote names on each coin before I left. When will I learn?
Year of the Sheep... or Goat?
My dragon shadow puppet was a big hit a couple years ago, when we celebrated the Year of the Dragon.
But this is the Year of the Sheep, or is it The Goat? There seemed to be some confusion, so we went straight to focusing on chopsticks.
I had 4 groups this year and I only had one person who refused to attempt the task of picking up "yarn noodles" with the wooden sticks. Dot, just shook her head like I was crazy. "Now what are we gonna do that for!" She hooted with her Louisiana accent.
"Because it's a whole lot of fun!" I teased back. Dot cracks me up. She rolls her eyes at half the things I attempt to share. I usually agree with her that my ideas and "experiments" are often sort of ridiculous. "But sometimes you just have to take a risk Dot and not worry about looking silly! You might end up laughing!" Dot, still refused, but she did end up laughing... at us.
It was funny to see all the techniques we came up with. Mr. Davis even gave it a try and he is totally blind. Margaret had no idea what this was all about, but she carefully, one by one, draped each yarn strand over the chopstick and seemed quite pleased.
We had two-handed attempts and a couple, who barely have use of their hands anymore, were determined and successful. For some, the activity became an exercise, for others it was just something whacky to do while we chatted and warmed up to one another.
Chopsticks for Music!
While we had the chopsticks out, I shared a song I used to do with my own kids. The chopsticks became rhythm instruments as we sang about tea and rice and finally fortune cookies. Dot, who does love a little music, suddenly was happy to pick up those sticks and join in! I rewarded all efforts with fortune cookies and we shared our fortunes and agreed, they need to come up with better ones!
We did a lot of wondering about all the uses for a gong. Some had seen gongs in symphonies. A few imagined how they might be used in ceremonies. Kathy remembered seeing a gong being used to end intermission at the theatre
We had some fun taking turns with the gong. Since our cookie fortunes had been so lame, I invited everyone to hit the gong and create their own good fortune for the new year.
I told everyone, it could be like wishing on birthday candles. But instead of making a wish and blowing, we could think up a fortune or wish and then strike the gong. Some like the spotlight and verbalizing their thoughts and others are less comfortable sharing. I assured, "You can keep it a secret, just like when you blow out candles!"
It was a treat watching the care Mr. Davis took as he reached out to find the gong with his hands. Since he can't see, he held metal edge, then aimed with the soft mallet. He taught us all a quick lesson about vibration, when his strike made a thud against the gong. He let go of the gong for his second try and managed to hit the bull's eye! The smile on his face matched the perfect and pure sound of the vibrating metal!
Fortunes and Wishes
Ken struck the gong and wished "Good wealth and health to us all!" Dot kept her thought a secret. Maria wished that her eyesight would return and dear Joyce spoke softly, "I wish my son would get his life turned around."
Good health and love for family, were the most popular shared thoughts.
And the Sound?
Even my loudest group got quiet and thoughtful as we took turns. It was surprising to see how focused each group became as they noticed that everyone had their own style of striking the gong. It became clear there was no right or wrong way with this group and they seemed to appreciate each other's sounds and thoughts, sometimes even applauding. "Oh, she made a beautiful sound! Did you hear how long it lasted!" It was sweet to see how they supported each other.
A Special Visitor
With my last group I shared one small tile from my grandmother's old mahjong game. We were looking at the tile when a young doctor entered our room to check on a resident.
She noticed all the stuff on our table and asked what we were doing. It turned out, the doctor was from China and she was so delighted to see us celebrating her culture. She had a hard time pulling herself away as she l got caught up looking through the photos and books and props. We took advantage and asked her a few questions.
What Did I (we) Learn?
I had to chuckle at what we learned from our surprise guest when we asked, "So is it the year of the goat or sheep?" She told us "both", which annoyed Dot, who grew up on a farm. The doctor explained that the year of "Yang" means goat, sheep or ram, depending on what area you are from.
There. Now we know!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.