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Pam McMurtry, Pam McMurtry Designs
Shamrocks surrounding this leprechaun cottage mark good deeds performed by the family the week before St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick was a privileged English youth who was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland, according to Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization." After escaping captivity and returning to Britain, he eventually felt the calling to go back to serve the people of the Ireland as a missionary, and it's said that the entire country mourned his passing.

My family also enjoys remembering the good saint and loves to celebrate colorful Irish culture and heritage. We have a delicious meal and activities to remember all things Irish. Here are three ways we celebrate St. Patrick's Day:

• Watch an Irish-themed movie: Movies are one way to experience the magic of the Emerald Isles, and some of our favorites are Disney's "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" or "The Secret of Roan Inish." Get ready for a fair amount of beloved blarney; Sean Connery is an Irish legend.

• Shamrock service: A week or so before St. Patrick's Day, we pass out glittery shamrocks to leave in places where good deeds occur, such as a secretly made bed, trash taken out, etc. On March 17, the shamrocks are collected and placed around the leprechaun cottage centerpiece on our dining table.

• It's not easy eating green: Yes, the requisite green-dyed foods surface every year, but I try to add enough food coloring to make foods a robust, vivid green shade; a pasty pale green tint is far less appetizing in my opinion. So go ahead and make shamrock pancakes and chocolate chip cookies and don't forget to send everyone to school wearin' a bit o' the green for a pinch-free St. Patrick's Day.

Pam McMurtry is a wife, parent of 7, artist, designer, caterer and writer with a bachelor's degree in art teaching, drawing and painting. Her "A Harvest and Halloween Handbook" is on Amazon.com and B&N.com and website: www.pammcmurtry.com