Cultural Alternatives to Getting Drunk on St. Patrick’s Day


Today, as you are probably well aware, is St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday originally meant to celebrate Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, but it has evolved in our modern times into a celebration of all things Irish — especially booze. Now, while there’s nothing wrong with downing a good Irish whiskey or two any day of the week, we have to admit that we’ve gotten a little bored of doing nothing on St. Patrick’s Day except drinking colored beer and watching the streets fill up with green-garbed miscreants. In case you have too, we’ve compiled a selection of other cultural activities to help you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — and the Irish — in style.

Read some Joyce

We suggest Dubliners, if only to assign something that can be read in a day, but any of his works will do, and extra points for Finnegans Wake (also the work to choose if you’re starting to miss being drunk). Probably the most famous Irish novelist to date, James Joyce was born in Dublin, and though he lived in many other places in his life, all of his works are set there. He once wrote, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

Have an Irish film marathon

Start with The Quiet Man, the 1952 classic known for its gorgeous views of the Irish countryside (all in Technicolor, of course). Then, we highly suggest The Commitments, the adaptation of the Roddy Doyle novel of the same name, which follows a group of Irish miscreants who form a soul band. Move on to the excellent The Wind That Shakes the Barley, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2006, set during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Then, perhaps you’d like to revisit Once. Top it all off with a double feature of two of the best Irish films of the past year, The Guard and Albert Nobbs.

Eat an enormous Irish breakfast

Yes, we think this activity can take place at any time of day. Visit your favorite brunch place, or make your own — cook up some bacon rashers, sausages, fried eggs, white pudding, black pudding, boiled potato, fried tomato and baked beans, and slap them on a plate with some toast or soda bread. Wash it all down with a cup of strong Irish black tea — with a little milk, of course. We suggest stretchy pants. [Photo via]

Plant something

Extend the color story metaphor a little bit and break out your green thumb this St. Patrick’s Day. March is the perfect time of year to plant roses and cherry blossom trees, and to plant or re-plant classic spring flowers like lilies, daffodils and tulips and delicious goodies like sweet peas. Or just go outside and get grass stains on your jeans — that counts as wearing green in our book.

Take in a play

Whether you read their plays or see them staged, there’s no denying that Irish playwrights are some of the best. Find a performance of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or go old school with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest or George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Or take in something contemporary by Eugene O’Neill, Peter Sheridan, or Enda Walsh.

Start a pickup game of Gaelic football

This crazy sport is like soccer, except you can pick up the ball with your hands, bounce it on the ground, and then either throw it or drop kick it — so it’s sort of like soccer/rugby/basketball, played with what looks disturbingly like a volleyball. Whatever it is, it looks super fun. Plus, it requires way less equipment than hurling.

Make an Irish music playlist

And no, we don’t mean fill your iPod with jigs and hornpipes (although we wouldn’t stop you). Spend the day listening to tunes by Irish nationals of every stripe, from 90s staples like The Cranberries and My Bloody Valentine, to crowd pleasers like Van Morrison, U2 and Thin Lizzy, to more contemporary classics like Bell X1, the Thrills, and Damien Rice. Or just give in and listen to every album the Chieftains ever put out — that’s really what you want to be doing anyway.