When you think of St. Patrick’s Day, you may think of the Americanized version, which often includes green beer, leprechaun hats, parades, and in some cities, even green rivers. But St. Patrick’s Day, deemed a Christian Feast Day in the early 17th century to commemorate Saint Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland, and Christianity’s arrival to Ireland.

It became an official public holiday in Ireland in 1903. Since then, there have been some complicated political and religious conflicts, but St. Patrick’s Day still remains a day of celebration around the world. 

Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day
Photo by: Steve Geer from Getty Images

How do you plan to celebrate? If not, invite some friends over for a unique celebration. Pay homage to the Irish with some activities and party ideas that will set your St. Paddy’s Day celebration apart from the rest. Here are a few ideas:

St. Patrick's Day Irish dancing
Photo by: Reshetnikov_art from Canva

Irish Dance Workshop

Irish dancing is centuries old. And though styles have evolved and absorbed other cultural influences, the dance styles generally include step; jig; sean nós (shan-noes), or “old style”; céilí (kay-lee), which is a traditional group dance accompanied by Gaelic folk music; and Irish tap dancing. Hire an instructor, or find a YouTube tutorial and learn some classic Irish dances, like the “Walls of Limerick” or the “Siege of Ennis.”

St. Patrick's Day whiskey tasting
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Blind Whiskey Tasting

There are so many kinds of whiskeys out there. But can you tell which one is Irish? A proper tasting should include a flight of roughly five different whiskeys. Remember… these don’t need to be full pours, so grab as many bottles as you think you might need and set out some whiskey glasses or shot glasses.

Cover the bottles and number them, corresponding the flight to the bottle numbers. Create a variety of categories: favorite, least expensive, most expensive, Irish, Scottish, American, etc., and have your guests identify which numbers go where. Be sure to offer water and snacks – perhaps some crisps, soda bread, or potato cakes – to help guests reset their palettes before trying the next option. 

Gaelic Language Crash Course

Irish Gaelic is indigenous to the island of Ireland and was the population’s first language until English became dominant in the 19th century. It is still spoken, mostly as a second language, but most of the Irish use it sparingly. Gaelic is in the Celtic language family, which is part of the Indo-European language family. 

Speaking Gaelic isn’t easy. Not just pronunciations, but sentence structure is quite unique. In Irish Gaelic, sentences are constructed in Verb > Subject > Object order, which is shared by only 9 percent of the world’s languages. If you were to say “I eat ice cream” in English, the Irish version would translate to “Eat I ice cream.”

All that to say, taking a quick Gaelic lesson can be pretty interesting…especially after that whiskey taste testing. 

Irish Film and Music Fest

The Irish have been contributing their performing arts talent for centuries. Dig out the classics, like Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, or more recent ones like Oppenheimer starring Irish actor Cillian Murphy, and Poor Things, a co-production between Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Perhaps you’re in a musical mood. Bust out your U2 tunes and listen to the incredible lyricism of Bono. Get super ethereal with Enya. Or jam out to Hozier

St. Patrick's Day Irish stew with beef, potatoes, and vegetables
Photo by: Frank Brennan from Getty Images

Irish Cooking Class

Who doesn’t love good food? Whether you venture out to an actual cooking class, or you simply pop up the iPad and try your hand at making a delicious dinner with friends, incorporating Irish classics, like stew, soda bread, colcannon, and boxty can bring unique flavors, textures, and experiences to the table. For an after-dinner sweet, serve apple amber or porter cake. And don’t forget the drinks… it is St. Patrick’s Day after all!

The Drowning of the Shamrocks

Legend has it that St. Patrick used the three-leaved shamrock to explain the Christian Holy Trinity, so it has long been a symbol for St. Paddy’s Day. The “drowning of the shamrocks” tradition is one where you drop a shamrock into the bottom of a pint glass or whiskey glass and pour your booze of choice on top of it. Once you’ve reached the bottom, you can either swallow the shamrock, or throw it over your shoulder for good luck. 

Irish Blessing Farewell

Looking for a meaningful toast? Perhaps a final word to send your guests on their way? Irish blessings are the perfect way to make a lasting impact on your guests. You might consider printing the blessing on small place cards or including them in a little bag of party favors. There are hundreds, so a quick Google search can help you find the blessing that’s perfect for your occasion. 

Perhaps one of the most famous Irish blessings is:

May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.


This St. Patrick’s Day, or whenever you feel like celebrating like the Irish, take a chance on incorporating some of these unique traditions. The depth and details take some effort to capture, but in the end, you’ll leave your guests feeling lucky they know you. 

And as the Irish say, “May your heart be warm and happy with the lilt of Irish laughter. Every day in every way, and forever and ever after.”

Kadi McDonald is a freelance writer, marketing strategist, and proud Cleveland sports fan.