This time of year, my Irish eyes are smiling because there are so many fun ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Easter - without food. This means my 9-year-old son Joseph can enjoy these holidays without having to think about his allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard.
Being part Irish, I tend to throw myself into St. Patrick’s Day. Joseph and his little sister Pamela started off that morning following a shamrock trail to a green pot that contained some leprechaun prizes. For breakfast, they ate shamrock-shaped toast topped with green sugar sprinkles, along with fresh fruit. We had an afternoon of baking, topping allergy-friendly chocolate cupcakes with green frosting and cutting allergy-friendly sugar cookies into the shape of shamrocks and covering them in green frosting and purple sprinkles. Then we prepped turkey shepherd's pie for dinner and took off for the annual food-free Easter egg hunt thrown by my local food-allergy group, NC FACES (Food Allergic Children Excelling Safely). I feel fortunate to be part of NC FACES, a group that has helped us navigate food allergies for most of Joseph’s life.
This year for the first time, Joseph helped hide (not find) the colorful, prize-filled plastic eggs for the Easter hunt. When he told me he felt too old for the egg hunt and would like to volunteer to hide eggs instead, I wistfully reminisced about all of the years when he was one of the little kids gleefully running across the field to fill his basket.
Once again, NC FACES came through and gave him a fun, safe experience. He was one of the “big kids” assigned to help an original NC FACES member, Marysa Gavankar, who ran the event at a local park. She had creative crafts ready to keep the little ones busy while Joseph and a couple other kids hid the eggs. Marysa also organized a game that had kids laughing as they threw plastic eggs across a grassy spot into nets held by Joseph and three other boys. When it came time for the hunt, Joseph helped hold the banner for Pamela and the other kids to run through as they embarked on their quest to fill their Easter baskets with eggs.
Both Joseph and Pamela had a blast on their food-free egg hunt. Back at home, they happily recounted the day’s activities during dinner while they dug into shepherd's pie and sipped their green, dairy-free milk out of shamrock straws.
I’m thankful to be part of a dynamic, caring allergy support group and for events like the food-free egg hunt that offer my kids a safe, fun way to celebrate. It makes me feel fortunate…the luck of the Irish.
Are you a member of a special-diet support group? How do you celebrate the holidays without food?