Saint Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint, having brought Christianity to the people of Ireland in the 5th century. His memory is celebrated on March 17th, the date of his death.
Saint Patrick’s day is a church holiday. Its celebrations are far more religious in character in Ireland than in the States.
The holiday became more secular under the influence of Irish-American immigrants. Irish pubs used to close for the holiday, but now most remain open for neighborhood gatherings.
Parades were not a tradition until Irish-Americans took the concept back to Ireland. The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade actually took place in Boston, in the year 1737.
Legend says that Saint Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock clover to explain the Holy Trinity, which is why the shamrock is an icon for all things Irish.
Traditional families go to church in the morning and celebrate the day with family and friends. They might attend sports events later, such as rugby, Gaelic football and hurling.
Saint Patrick’s Day party ideas
Ask your guests to come in costume. The best leprechaun gets a pot of gold (chocolate coins).
Put on Irish or Celtic music and play musical chairs. A lot of kid’s games become hilarious when adults play.
Irish music to set the party atmosphere: the Dubliners, the Chieftains, The Dublin Folk Band. Go through some YouTube videos of each band to see which you like.
Set up a table for poker where players play for chocolate gold coins. It doesn’t do to play for real money if people are drinking.
Classic charades are fun in a party group. Players must stay with the Saint Patrick theme.
Beer Tasting. Set up a table with a variety of microbrewery beers.
Have people jot down tasting notes (provide paper and pens). Announce the most popular beer at the end of the evening.
Don’t think kids’ games can’t be fun. Play Pin The Shamrock On The Leprechaun, directions below.
Materials needed for Pin The Shamrock On The Leprechaun
- A cutout of a leprechaun with a pot of gold
- Green construction paper
- Sticky tack
- Beer or green punch
Cut several shamrock shapes out of the construction paper. Attach sticky tack to the back of each shape.
Tape the leprechaun cutout to a wall.
Have each blindfolded play try to stick the shamrock onto the pot of gold. If they miss, they must take a drink of beer.
Those that manage to stick a shamrock on the pot of gold get a prize. Prizes can be a bottle of beer, a green-frosted cupcake, a package of snacks, or the like.
A fun outdoor activity is a basketball game where all the players wear top hats.
Play Hot Potato, where when the music stops, the one stuck with the potato has to drink a shot.
Materials needed for Hot Potato:
- A baked potato
- Guinness, Beer, or Irish whiskey
- Shot glasses
Have Irish or Celtic music ready to play (see the list of Irish bands above).
Guests sit in a circle, each with a shot glass. One person sits in the middle, holding the potato.
When the music begins playing, the player in the middle hands the potato to someone on his/her right. The potato goes from hand to hand until the music suddenly stops.
Whoever was holding the potato when the music stopped must drink a shot of whisky. They then leave the circle.
The game keeps going until there is only one person left. That’s the winner.
The winner gets an appropriate prize.
Movie time! There’s plenty of choice between types of movies made or set in Ireland, from horror to history to comedy. Choose the type that suits your crowd and stream away.
Some upbeat movies set in Ireland: Sing Street; Leap Year; Rory O’Shea Was Here; Waking Ned Devine; The Snapper; The Commitments.
Some classic and prize-winning Irish movies: The Wind in the Barley; The Quiet Man; A Date For Mad Mary; Brooklyn.
Read the reviews of the movie you choose to make sure it’s suitable. Many well-known Irish movies deal with historical or political issues and can be too dark for a fun party.
Drawing contest: who will draw the best four-leaf clover with their eyes shut? Players must drink a shot before starting to draw.
Irish Prize treasure hunt.
Materials needed for Irish prize treasure hunt:
- A handful of gold chocolate coins
- A cool prize like an Irish movie, a bottle of whiskey, or a corned beef dinner.
Hide the gold coins in hard-to-find places around the living room. Keep the kitchen off-limits to avoid rumpus where the food prep is going on.
The person who collects the most coins within 5 minutes wins the prize.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
- Lots of green clothing items. Items that anyone can wear are best: hats, gloves, shawls, belts, slippers, sunglasses, wigs, large pieces of costume jewelry like necklaces.
- One bucket per team.
Put the green clothes and accessories in the buckets.
Set a timer to ring at 2 minutes. Your cellphone’s timer will do.
Put the buckets on one side of the room. The players stand on the other side.
Players hop like a frog to get to the bucket. They then put on one item from the bucket and hop back.
It’s even funnier if two people leap-frog their way back and forth.
The first player to manage five trips back and forth wins. Alternately, the person or team who has grabbed the greenest clothes when the time is up wins.
Blarney Stone Bounce
Materials need for Blarney Stone Bounce:
- A fishbowl
- Enough small stones to fill the fishbowl
- Ping pong balls
Number the ping pong balls. Fill the fishbowl with small stones.
Fill the bucket with the numbered ping pong balls and place it on one side of the room.
Players stand on the other side of the room and bounce the ping pong balls over to the fishbowl. The object is to land one in the fishbowl.
The first player to land one successfully in the fishbowl wins.
Saint Patrick’s Day Trivia
Prepare a sheet with the questions, and the answers on a separate sheet.
1. The flag of Ireland is white, orange, and _______
2. What St. Patrick used to symbolize the Holy Trinity
3. Small, mischievous sprites
4. Country St. Patrick was born in
5. What you might find after it rains if you’re lucky
6. Something you kiss to get the gift of the gab
7. What drink bars dye green to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day
8. A good luck symbol
9. The color in Ireland’s nickname
10. What you get if you don’t wear green on St. Paddy’s Day
11. St. Patrick is the patron saint of _______
12. What St. Patrick drove out of Ireland
13. Where the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held
14. What didn’t flow on St. Paddy’s Day for most of the 20th century
15. Symbol that appears on Irish coins
5. Pot of Gold
6. The Blarney Stone
8. A four-leaf clover
10. A pinch
13. United States
15. A harp
The Shamrock Shake
Materials needed for the Shamrock Shake Per player:
- Green tissue box
- 20 ping pong balls
Empty the tissue boxes. Tape or super-glue a pair of pantyhose to one of each box’s wide ends, to make a belt so that the players can tie the box around their waists.
Fill each tissue box with 20 ping pong balls.
Players tie the boxes around their waists. Either blow a whistle to start, or have a timer ping.
Players shake their hips to get the ping pong balls out of the boxes. The first one with an empty box wins.
This game is best played with lively music.
The Cabbage Crawl
- One head of cabbage per team
Make starting and finishing lines on the floor by putting a long piece of tape down across one side of the room, then another stripe on the other side. Put one cabbage down per team on the starting line.
Players must get down on their hands and knees and push their head of cabbage to the other side of the room using just their heads. The first team to head-push their cabbage to the finishing line wins.
If the party is small, this can also be played with individual players.
What can be more Irish than limericks? You provide the opening line, and guests invent the rest as they go along.
Some people are good at coming up with funny lines, and some are not. Don’t pressure anyone to participate.
Here are some prompts:
There was a young lady from Kinsale…
There was an old shepherd from Galway…
There once was a horse who drank whiskey…
There once was a dancer of jigs…
There was a young fisherman from Doolin…
If your guests are alert and ready, they might find rhymes for a difficult word like Dublin. Try them with “There once was a gent from old Dublin…”
2- Minute Limerick Balloons
- One funny limerick per team
- Balloons – one color per team
Print out one funny limerick per team. Use a large, readable font.
Cut apart each line of the limerick. Put one line of the limerick in a balloon until you have five balloons containing all the lines.
To keep track, choose one color balloon for each limerick.
Players blow up, then pop their balloons. Give them 2 minutes to assemble their limericks.
The team that puts their limerick together within 2 minutes wins.
Staying with the limerick theme, print out several funny limericks and get a volunteer to read each one out loud. The trick is not to say the last word but have the other guests fill it in.
This is a simple entertainment more than a game, but you’d be surprised at how much people enjoy shouting out that last word to complete the limerick.
Saint Patrick’s Day Photo Booth
Booths are a great way to pose people for photos. Even shy or self-conscious people will stand behind a photo booth and let themselves be photographed.
For Saint Patrick’s day, download free Irish-themed photo booth printables off the Net. Print and cut them out.
Attach them to dowel rods and let the guests use them as props for the photos.
A fun activity for an adult Saint Patrick’s day party is learning how to dance an Irish jig. You don’t need to be a good dancer to learn the basic steps, and YouTube has great videos to show you how.
The Irish Dance Magazine has an especially clear and easy YouTube video that teaches three basic Irish jig steps. The tutorial lasts less than 5 minutes.
Once your guests have mastered the steps, put on music and let them dance. Non-dancers can be the audience and cheer the dancers on.
This activity is best presented towards the beginning of the party, when guests are fresh, especially if there’s going to be drinking later on. You don’t want tiddly people leaping around.
Download musical backgrounds for classic Irish songs like “Wild Rover” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” Or ask talented guests to stand up and sing!
Classic indoor games from the British Isles.
Equipment for quoits, ring toss, darts, and many traditional pub games can be ordered online. These games are pricey.
Consider buying them if you intend to set them up permanently in your rec room or have them on hand frequently.
The alternative is to make your own ring toss. It’s easily made at home and needs minimal equipment to build. A DIY ring toss can be as simple as a spike and rope rings to toss. Make up your own rules.