5 Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without Getting a Hangover

Going green never felt so good


As the son of an Irish immigrant, I always found it odd that my American mother looked forward to the big holiday more than my Irish father did.

“St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal now in Ireland,” he told me on the phone recently, “but it never used to be anything to write home about in the old days. It was mostly a religious holiday and we treated it as a solemn day, as opposed to a day to get snockered.”

Now I don’t begrudge anyone a nice pint o’ Guinness, but shouldn’t St. Patrick’s Day be about more than simply getting drunk in a random pub? Instead of heading to some insanely crowded bar why not have a few friends over for one or more of the following Irish cultural alternatives?

  1. Make an Irish Breakfast
    Who says the Irish don’t know much about food? When it comes to the most important meal of the day, an Irish breakfast is as good as it gets, in my opinion. Now, this is not the kind of breakfast that the Irish have daily. Most often breakfast consists of porridge, toast and tea. But this is a feast day, so we eat heartily. Here’s my favorite Irish Breakfast recipe:

    Irish Breakfast (serves 2-3)

    1 package of Irish sausages
    1 package of Irish bacon (This is essentially back bacon — close to Canadian bacon, but meatier. Canadian bacon is a good substitute in a pinch though.)
    1 package of black pudding (Better known as blood pudding. More a Sausage than pudding, basically it is pork rind, pork blood and barley.)
    1 package of white pudding (Also known as a banger sausage. Similar to black pudding but larger and without the blood — casing, pork meat and fat, suet (sheep fat), bread and oatmeal.)
    4 eggs
    4 medium tomatoes
    4 boiled (but cold) potatoes
    Irish butter
    1 can of baked beans
    Brown bread or soda bread
    Irish Breakfast tea

    (You can get the entire specialty group of ingredients from foodireland.com by clicking here.)


    1. Place a knob of the Irish butter on a frying pan or skillet.
    2. Over a medium heat, fry the bacon until it’s done the way you like. Try not to cook it like American bacon which is usually done until real crispy. Irish bacon is best when soft and well browned.
    3. With four plates in the warming section of your oven, place the cooked bacon on one plate and keep hot. You can place a paper towel on the plate to absorb excess fat from the bacon.
    4. Place the sausages on the frying pan and cook till golden brown all around. Place in oven on a second plate — keep hot.
    5. Empty contents of can of beans in to a small saucepan and place on low heat.
    6. Slice the puddings and place on the frying pan.
    7. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place on pan also.
    8. Slice the previously boiled chilled potatoes in to slices about 1″ thick and place on pan.
    9. Fry the tomatoes, puddings and potatoes till golden brown both sides.
    10. Place in the oven and keep hot.
    11. Finally, fry the eggs.

    Serve with tea and brown bread.

  2. Irish Films
    Rent or download the Irish independent movie Once . An unnamed street musician (Glen Hansard of the Irish band The Frames) with dreams of being a recording star meets a young Czech women who is impressed by his music. She also reveals her love of music and dabbles on a piano from time to time. They get to know each other as they put together a demo disc that the guy hopes will land him a recording contract. As they talk about their past loves and reveal their budding love for one another through their songs, we begin to see new possibilities arise for both of them. Steven Spielberg said that “A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year.” May this little indie film do the same for you.
  3. Irish Kareoke (Sean-nós)
    Pub culture in Ireland is the place where community gathers to share stories and sing songs. Have a go at some sean-nós — traditional a cappella singing. Get together with some friends and share why a song has special meaning to you before you start.

    Pub culture in Ireland is the place where community gathers to share stories and sing songs. So, music is almost never merely about listening. In Ireland you don’t just listen to music in a pub; instead everyone needs to take a turn at singing one of their favorites. Have a go at some sean-nós — traditional a cappella singing — which you’ll find at any pub worth its salt in the Emerald Isle. Get together with some friends and share why a song has special meaning to you before you start. (Personal stories also often accompany singing in pubs.)

    Consider selecting the best cuts from Irish bands like: U2 (perhaps from their new album No Line on the Horizon), The Chieftains, The Pogues, The Corrs, Stockton’s Wing, The Cranberries and Black 47. Then add traditional Irish pub favorites from Irish artists like Tommy Makem, the Wolfe Tones and the Clancy Brothers. Sing proudly, even if you can’t really carry a tune; others will join in and help.

  4. Irish Literature
    The Irish are great storytellers. Invite friends over to take turns reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses , or William Butler Yeats’ epic poem The Wanderings of Oisin . Or do a dramatic reading of one of the great Irish playwrights. Two which come to mind are: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (which My Fair Lady is based on), and the more modern Conor MacPherson’s The Weir — a fun but frightening tale about men trying to scare a woman with Irish ghost stories, which goes awry. Or consider skimming Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization and discussing the interesting history the Irish have shared with the world.
  5. Irish (Celtic) Spirituality
    St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday celebrating the Saint who converted much of Ireland’s pagan population to Catholicism, by highlighting the similarities between their very earth-based faith with Catholicism. Celtic spirituality developed many traditions that we can learn from and use today. The Catholic Celts were very isolated, so their religious practices often grew independent from any kind of centralized religious authority, and were based on a monastic way of life. The central tenets of Celtic spirituality include:

      Ancient Celts revered the wild as sacred space — a place you journey to on pilgrimage in hopes of finding God — since God is embedded in all things.
    • Pilgrimage and seeing God in all things: The Irish believe that the sacred and the secular are not that far apart — that God and the saints are personally present and are guides for people as they go through life. Nature and, more importantly, the notion of pilgrimage, are extremely important reminders of God’s gift. Ancient Celts revered the wild as sacred space — a place you journey to on pilgrimage in hopes of finding God — since God is embedded in all things.While they believed in many gods before their Christian conversion, Christian Celtic spirituality translated this into revering nature as having qualities that reveal God and are connected to God. God is found in the “thin places” — places where people feel God’s presence intimately, perhaps on a mountaintop, or a deep forest, or when sunlight reflects off the water.

      Get out in the great outdoors today and take a hike or get in a boat or do something more adventurous like whitewater rafting or rockclimbing. Think of the grandeur of God’s majesty in Creation, and how we are all just small but significant parts.

    • Art, Symbols and Myth: Art, symbols and sharing the great myths — stories of great meaning — were also of paramount importance to the Celts. Celtic symbols are very distinct. The Celtic Cross, seen throughout Ireland, is built high and has a circle behind it symbolizing that God’s presence is continual with life and the earth. Some say it also symbolizes the sun rising behind the cross though obscured by it, just as the stark symbol of execution, the cross, obscures but does not hide the rising of the resurrection, for people of faith who know that Christ will rise again just as the sun rises each day.The best know source of Celtic art is the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels in Latin, that monks in the Ninth Century. It contained intricate large capital letters and illustrations of animals and flowers. The Book of Kells display at Trinity College, Dublin is well worth a visit.triquetra-50px

      St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity to illiterate pagans, and Celtic spiritual artists emphasized the Trinity, most notably in the popular interwoven knotwork symbol, the Triquetra.

    • Soul Friends and hospitality: In a sense, the Irish invented the modern practice of spiritual direction. Celts had a soul friend, anamchara — a companion on the spiritual journey. They also may have been among the first to practice individual confession.Celtic communities had a mandate of hospitality for all. Everyone was welcome and included as family. Kinship ties were highly important, and the great stories often passed down from parent to child in an oral tradition. While most were illiterate, memorization skills were cultivated so that, through these stories, knowledge could be transmitted throughout the community.
  6. For more on Celtic Spirituality check out this excellent article from St Anthony Messenger.

Whatever you do today, know that the great Saint Patrick leaves us with a piece of his great prayer for keeping God in mind always:

The Breastplate of St Patrick

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation. Amen.