When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, what do you think of? For me, it’s corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread. A friend with Irish heritage told me she thinks of a feeling of pride and community. But for many Americans, St. Patrick’s Day is mostly about drinking. According to WalletHub, beer sales go up by 174% on St. Patrick’s Day, and the sale of spirits increases by 153%.
There is more to celebrating St. Paddy’s Day than green beer! Here are some ways to get in on the fun even if you’re not drinking:
Celebrate Irish media
- Put on a playlist of Irish artists. You could go with well-known ones like U2, The Cranberries, and Hozier, or dig deeper to expand your horizons. There are talented Irish musicians in every genre.
- Laugh with Irish comedians. While jokes and sitcoms often involve drinking, humor itself doesn’t require alcohol! Seek out Irish comedians like Eleanor Tiernan, Dara Ó Briain, Aisling Bea, or Edwin Sammon, or TV series like Derry Girls or Father Ted.
- Watch an Irish movie. There are animated films like The Secret of Kells and Wolfwalkers, Oscar nominees like The Banshees of Inisherin or Belfast, coming-of-age films like Sing Street, and immigrant stories like Brooklyn.
- Watch an American movie about leprechauns. Disney has the classic Darby O’Gill and the Little People and the wacky The Luck of the Irish. If you’re a fan of horror films, there’s even a series of questionable Leprechaun horror movies.
- An official Sober St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There are in-person Sober St. Patrick’s Day events in New York City, and many other cities host similar festivities. Do an online search to see if there are any planned near you.
- Recovery community celebrations. Check with your local mutual support groups (12-step, Refuge Recovery, etc.), as many of them plan substance-free holiday fun.
- Online groups. Most online group meetings will still take place on St. Patrick’s Day, regardless of what kind of recovery organization you’re part of. If you’re a Workit Health member, you can self-enroll in a group in the Community tab on your app.
Indulge in Irish (or Irish-American) foods
- Corned beef and cabbage. This classic St. Patrick’s Day meal is not popular in Ireland. It arose among Irish immigrants in the U.S. who bought corned beef brisket from kosher butchers, and now it’s enjoyed by millions every March 17th.
- Lamb. Make your lamb into a hearty and traditional stew, or roast it for a fancier holiday meal.
- Salmon. Smoked, roasted, or grilled, served with cream sauce or a honey glaze, salmon is a beloved protein in Ireland and can be a delightful St. Paddy’s Day dish.
- Bake something. Soda bread is common to see in grocery stores at this time of year, and you can also make it at home. Or mix up a batch of scones, shortbread, oatcakes or bannocks, or a fruit crumble.
- Potatoes. There is no food more symbolic of Ireland than the potato, and there are a million ways to prepare them. Go traditional by making colcannon, boiled potatoes, the mashed potato dish called champ, or a potato soup.
Make your own fun
- Arts and crafts. If construction paper crafts aren’t inspiring you now that you’re grown up, there are other options for holiday crafts! You could tie a Celtic knot wall hanging, apply gold leaf to a picture frame, make polymer clay or resin jewelry, or make a St. Patrick’s Day wreath for your door.
- Get outdoors. The weather can be iffy in March in some parts of the country, but if you’re in an area that allows outdoor activities, get out there! Go for a walk, run, or hike. Play flag football, mini-golf, catch, or Frisbee. If there’s still snow where you are, you could even make a snow leprechaun.
- Go green. Skipping the green beer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy weirdly green food. You can add green food coloring to milk, potatoes, or cookie dough. Or make a green mocktail. There are also plenty of naturally green foods, like veggies, matcha, and pistachio.
But … if you do decide to drink, be responsible
We love a sober celebration, but we know that not everyone will choose that. If you decide you will be drinking on St. Patrick’s Day, be responsible and stay safe by practicing harm reduction!
- Drink plenty of water. Alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic options. This will not only help you pace your drinking, but will also help you stay hydrated.
- Arrange safe transportation in advance. In 2020, 37 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period. Don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve had a drink. Cabs, ridesharing apps, and designated drivers are your friends!
- Have a plan. Set a limit on how much you will drink and stick to it. If you go to a bar, bringing only cash (no cards) can help you keep to your planned limit. Telling a friend your plan can also provide accountability. There are several calculators on the NIAAA’s Rethinking Drinking page that can help you stay on track.
- Don’t try to match other people. Drinking is not a competition! You don’t have to keep up with anyone else.
- Consider your meds. If you take any medications, talk with your provider ahead of time about how alcohol might interact with them.