Whether you’re clinking mugs full of green beer, donning a full leprechaun costume or otherwise tipsily gallivanting through the streets, you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as you’re supposed to… right?
America’s greenest holiday was once a very different kind of celebration. Once upon a time, Irish immigrants threw small gatherings on March 17 as an homage to their homeland thousands of miles away. Participants enjoyed doing many activities that we now associate with the holiday in one way or another, such as eating, drinking, socializing and watching parades.
Ireland itself didn’t even start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day — aside from business and building closures — until it became an American sensation. For the Irish, it was a chance to relax at home with family, much like Labor Day is in America. But for the Irish overseas, St. Patrick’s Day can always hold a special place in peoples’ hearts, as it’s an international excuse to celebrate their heritage among people from all over the world.
Want this to be the year you bring some authentic appreciation to your St. Patrick’s Day festivities? Here’s how to do it, whether you hail from the Emerald Isle or not.
1. Dig Into Irish Fare
Many of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dishes are comprised of meat and potatoes. Shepherd’s pie is actually the quintessential entrée, a base of ground beef and veggies covered in — what else? — mashed potatoes.
Grab a slice of Irish soda bread to go with it, or have a few pieces of the filling loaf to keep tipsiness at bay! Corned beef is another staple in traditionally inspired Irish recipes, as it goes well with everything from cabbage to cubed potatoes.
2. Watch Irish Sports
March Madness starts soon, but the Irish don’t have NCAA basketball on in the pubs. Instead, they cheer for teams playing Gaelic football, a sport similar to rugby, or Gaelic hurling, a fast-paced game in which players use a stick to hit a ball over a goalpost for one point or past a goalie for three points. People have been playing the latter for more than 3,000 years — clearly, it has staying power, so give it a try!
3. Appreciate Irish Art
Your St. Patrick’s Day celebration will not be complete without a bit of Irish culture — aside from food and drink, of course. The Irish have contributed so much to the realms of music, literature and film, and March 17 is the perfect day to appreciate it all.
Start by switching on some Irish tunes, whether traditional, like “Finnegan’s Wake,” or a bit more modern. Along with hits like Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl” — not to be confused with Ed Sheeran’s song of the same name — artists like U2 and Van Morrison are Irish favorites too.
For a well-rounded approach to Irish art, crack open a classic by James Joyce or Oscar Wilde. Once you’ve finished a few chapters of The Picture of Dorian Gray, flip on a classic flick filmed on the Emerald Isle: rom-coms, fantasy movies and dramas included.
4. Brush up on Pub Culture
Spoiler alert: You won’t find the Irish sipping on green beer this St. Patrick’s Day or any other day of the year. Instead, they stick to good old-fashioned ales, lagers and stouts.
Of course, the quintessential Irish beer is Guinness, and if you’re going to participate in drinking festivities on the holiday, you should make it a point to at least try this beer once! But there are more Emerald Isle beers to try this March: brands like Harp, Murphy’s, Kilkenny and Smithwicks also brew up delicious options. If you’re more of a whiskey gal, you can’t go wrong with Jameson.
And as you’re ordering your St. Patrick’s Day favorites, you don’t necessarily have to feel inclined to order the “festive” Irish Car Bomb shot. While it may seem like a classic, it’s an entirely American creation, and its name is actually a reference to a horrible time in the country’s history. Perhaps stick to whiskey instead.
A side note: If you’re participating in drinking festivities this March 17, please be safe! Drunk driving is now responsible for one-third of all car accidents in the U.S. Don’t overdo it, and order a cab or a ride-sharing service to get home from the pub. There’s no reason that a night meant for fun and celebration should turn into a serious tragedy for you and/or someone else.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Brushing up on culture never hurts! It seems kind of silly to celebrate holidays for reasons we don’t even understand. Learn, ask questions, read! It’ll help you gain a greater appreciation for the holiday. And now, go have a fun and festive St. Patrick’s Day! Sláinte!