In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday, one that is often spent going to Mass or taking part in a small neighborhood parade. However, because the holiday occurs during Lent, it is often considered a “free pass” day, meaning that whatever was given up for Lent (e.g., drinking) can be indulged on March 17. Although many of the things we do in America to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day—eating corned beef and cabbage, holding Irish Elvis parades, discussing leprechauns, wearing head-to-toe green—didn’t originate with the Irish, we do share the tradition of drinking on this day. Since the only praying most Americans do on March 17 is to the porcelain god (a.k.a, the toilet) here are a few party ideas that are secular and not at all Irish, but do honor our joint cultural tradition of a good swill or two.
Limericks are five-sentence poems with an aabba rhyming scheme. They usually have funny or sexual undertones, making them party favorites. Limerick is also the name of a city in Western Ireland—thus, these poems are perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
Give all your guests a piece of paper and pen, and five minutes to write a limerick. Toss them in a bowl, read aloud, and vote on the best one. Winner receives a bottle of Irish whiskey or gold-wrapped chocolates.
Pub Crawl/Photo Scavenger Hunt
Photo scavenger hunts are a fun variation on a traditional pub-crawl. You’ll need at least two or three teams of four or five people, a list of stunts, and as many digital cameras as there are teams.
Choose four to five bars that are in walking distance of each other. Make a list of stunts or activities that the teams can accomplish in a two- to three-hour period. These can be things like drinking from the tap behind a bar, arm wrestling a drunk, taking a picture with a person from Ireland, sipping an Irish coffee, finding a four-leaf clover, etc.
Document the activity by taking a picture. After the bar crawl, convene at a house or bar and upload pictures onto the computer. As a group, decide how many stunts each team completed; the team with the most stunts wins a bottle of whiskey, bragging rights, and the rest of the Irish stew.
Beer or Whiskey Tasting
Do a blind tasting of various Irish stouts or Irish whiskeys and pick an overall winner. For beers, choose from Dublin Stout (single and double), Guinness Extra Stout, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, Murphy’s Stout (single and double), Beamish and Crawford Triple Stout and Export Stout. After the beer, move on to a blind tasting of Irish whiskies.
Make a sign-up list for your guests to bring various Irish dishes, like Irish stew, coddle, colcannon, soda bread, brown bread, etc. Serve on green shamrock-shaped plates and accompany with Irish coffee, Irish beers (or green-colored beer), and Irish whiskey.
Make a list of Irish trivia questions and give people Bingo-style boards with the answers on them. Read the questions aloud, and have players put a paper shamrock over the correct answer on their board; they should also drink every time they have the answer to the question. First person with a complete diagonal or row wins an Irish Car Bomb.
Make a CD of traditional or contemporary Irish music, each song lasting one minute. Have players take a shot of Irish beer every minute for seventeen minutes (for the 17th of March); they’ll know when it’s time to take another shot when they hear the song change. Repeat until last person standing.
Put the names of famous Irish authors like Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Yeats, John Boyle O’Reilly, and Edna O’Brien on slips of paper with accompanying quotes. Have people draw slips and act out their author while guests try to guess who they are. Incorrect guesses result in a drink.
Photo courtesy of Steve Ford Elliott