St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is the feast day of St. Patrick and a national holiday in Ireland. However, events commemorating the occasion span the globe, from celebratory parades to festivals showcasing Irish culture. Communities across the U.S. celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in many ways, including cultural events featuring Irish music and dance, parades welcoming thousands of revelers, and raucous bar crawls. Discover St. Patrick’s Day event ideas to bring this celebration to your community.
What’s the origin of St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day was predominantly a religious celebration until 1903 when it was announced as Ireland’s national holiday. Festive celebrations took hold in Ireland and beyond. These days, the religious aspects of the holiday often take a backseat to public celebrations, parades, and festivals. Across the Irish Sea on the Emerald Isle itself, Dublin hosts its multi-day St. Patrick’s Day festival with four days of traditional performances and rabble-rousing in Temple Bar.
Aside from the parades, what are some traditions of St. Patrick’s Day? Nearly 700 iconic sites across 66 countries turn green every year to participate in Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening Initiative. It started in 2010 to encourage landmarks worldwide to illuminate in green for St. Patrick’s Day. The Sydney Opera House and the Sky Tower in Auckland were the first to light up in honor of ancient Hibernia’s patron saint. Today, many U.S. landmarks participate as well; New York’s Empire State Building and the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign go green every St. Patrick’s Day.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.
Irish immigrants held the earliest reported St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and Boston in the late 19th century. These days, Americans celebrate Irish-American culture in a big way.
New York City hosts one of the world’s largest celebrations, with two million people gathering for a six-hour march up Fifth Avenue. There are no cars or floats — just dancers, bands, and bagpipers. More than half a million people gather in downtown Boston to watch dancers, bands, and bagpipers parade past. Chicago dyes the Chicago River bright green every St. Patrick’s Day — an apt backdrop for the annual parade and some 800,000 revelers. Other U.S. cities, including Savannah, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, are known for their large St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations that attract tens of thousands of green-clad attendees every March.
If you’re a business looking for a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, check out these 7 retail event ideas that celebrate culture, community, and your brand.
25 St. Patrick’s Day event ideas
Celebrate Irish-American heritage in your community with these St. Patrick’s Day event ideas.
1. Get crafty
For a family-friendly event, organize a St. Patrick’s Day crafting workshop. Have attendees create shamrock wreaths, St. Patrick’s Day hats, or sock puppets themed around the day. As just one example, the UK-based Waltham Forest Libraries is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day card crafting event that offers creative fun for all ages.
2. Céilí dances
Irish dancing isn’t just for professionals. Learning céilí dancing is surprisingly accessible for people with a range of abilities. Hire traditional Irish musicians to accompany the festivities for an authentic touch. And don’t forget to provide some incredible food and beverage experiences to round out the night.
3. Host an Irish poetry night
Ireland has produced some of the world’s best literature. Venerated writers like W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce all hail from Ireland, as do contemporary voices such as Seamus Heaney, Frank McCourt, and Rachael Hegarty. So hold a poetry reading in honor of their works. Serve Irish snacks and beverages to complement the readings for a cozy and cultural evening.
For a lighthearted and more interactive take on your Irish poetry night, host a limerick competition. Encourage everyone to enjoy the event’s spirit and the craic — but be sure to prep attendees if you expect the language to go south.
4. Present Irish music
In addition to traditional Irish music, Ireland has produced world-class contemporary acts: U2, The Cranberries, The Corrs, Westlife, Sinead O’Connor, and the list goes on. Host an Irish pop music disco, playing tracks by Irish artists and bands, or stick to the same theme for a karaoke night.
For a live music experience, bring together a lineup of bands specializing in traditional or contemporary Irish music. The Sanilac County Historic Village & Museum in Port Sanilac, Michigan, is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day concert with a local band playing classic Irish tunes. All that singing and dancing will work up attendees’ appetites, so bring in vendors to offer food and beverages with an Irish theme.
5. Celebrate Irish artists
Irish painters, sculptors, and photographers have blazed new paths in their respective fields, including Irish-born painter Francis Bacon, photographer Michael Craig-Martin, and cubist painter Louis Le Brocquy. Offer a tour that focuses on leading Irish artists at a local museum, or visit an online collection, and see the world in a new way. To make the event a success, find out how to get sponsors for your arts exhibition.
6. Whiskey tasting
For an exclusively adult event, hold an Irish whiskey tasting. Curate your own tasting flight of premium Irish whiskeys and introduce your attendees to new favorites. The ABV Barrel Shop in Arnold, Missouri, is offering up four Irish whiskeys for sampling on St. Patrick’s Day. If you’re hosting an event in person, why not hire an Irish fiddler or piper to bring extra atmosphere?
7. Screen an Irish movie (or two)
Keep things cultured with a film screening. Guests can buy drinks and snacks — green popcorn, anyone? — and enjoy classic Irish films. Our recommendations for feel-good films are “The Commitments,” “Once,” and “Killing Bono.” For something more historical and thematic, go with “The Wind that Shakes the Barley.”
8. St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt
Adding a St. Patrick’s Day-themed scavenger hunt to your event is a great St. Patrick’s Day marketing idea. Give teams a list of green or Irish-themed items to take a photo of or bring back for the judges. Teams receive points for each item found. Add more excitement and intrigue by creating clues on rainbow cards and having participants find a “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. Make it challenging enough to keep attendees’ attention but easy enough for everyone to enjoy the fun.
9. Hold an Irish dancing demonstration
Host a dance recital featuring céilí dance demonstrations by traditional Irish dancers. Hiring Irish musicians to accompany the festivities will take your event to the next level.
10. Irish cooking class
Offer attendees a new skill to learn and something delicious to try with an Irish cooking class or dinner. Teach them how to prepare and serve classic dishes such as soda bread, colcannon, or traditional beef stew. If baking is more your thing, host an Irish scone-making class where participants can make their own sweet treats.
11. A 5k or 10k fundraiser
Get active this year with St. Patrick’s Day events focused on fitness. A 5k or 10k can serve as a celebratory fundraiser. For example, Attic House 2nd and 3rd Year Clubs hosted a fundraiser for Cian’s Kennels. This event was a dog and owner’s walking challenge, with two distances to choose from — 5 or 10 kilometers. Registered participants received a branded bandana for their dog and were encouraged to dress in costume, show off their walking time, and share photos of their bandana-clad pets on the event’s official Facebook page. Prizes were awarded for the most creative dog and owner costumes.
12. Themed pop-up bar
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a themed pop-up bar. Transform any venue or attraction into a St. Patrick’s Day party and serve Irish-inspired craft cocktails. Consider partnering with local food trucks or restaurants that can offer some Irish fare. Public School House in Cottleville, Missouri is hosting a “Shamrocked” event complete with catered food and signature cocktails.
13. Music and cultural festival
Showcase Irish culture and tradition with an Irish festival in your community. Partner with other local businesses to offer a well-rounded event featuring entertainment, food, and drink. Naptown Events in Annapolis, Maryland is hosting a Shamrock the Dock event that features live music, Irish dancing, bagpipe performances, and food and drink offerings.
St. Patrick’s Day party ideas
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are popular across the U.S., so get in on the fun. Consider these St. Patrick’s Day party ideas as your next event.
How do you throw a good St. Patrick’s Day party?
You want your St. Patrick’s Day party to celebrate Irish culture and offer plenty of fun for revelers. Bringing in Irish musicians or performers and offering traditional Irish food and drink is a great way to make your party stand out. Check out this holiday event guide for inspiration for your St. Patrick’s Day party.
14. Plan a classic St. Patrick’s Day party
Whether you want to take to the streets, venture into a local pub or bar, or rent a venue, a party is a great way to celebrate Irish culture. Lean into the theme with St. Patrick’s Day decorations, as well as:
- Serving Irish food and beverages
- Hiring an Irish band to play traditional and contemporary Irish music
- Encouraging attendees to wear an Irish-inspired costume and offering an award for the best dressed
- Running a Shamrock bingo game with Irish images to mark off when called out
- Using “Pots of Gold” for table centerpieces along with pictures of shamrocks and leprechauns
Check out this party planning checklist for more tips.
15. Host a bar crawl
Invite St. Patrick’s Day revelers to participate in a bar crawl in your area. Encourage local bars to participate, offering drinks specials to anyone attending the crawl. Tickets can get party-goers into all participating bars at no charge, and you can even offer a t-shirt for participants to wear. Food coupons to nearby restaurants and giveaways can make your bar crawl even more enticing. Learn how to plan and market a killer bar crawl in four steps.
16. Make it a day party
A day party will have less competition with other St. Patrick’s Day events in the evening hours. Plus, when you start your event earlier, it can carry on longer. Even more, you might want to host your event in conjunction with your community’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which likely takes place during the day.
Hosting a daytime St. Patrick’s Day party allows you to tap into many ideas, whether you’re hosting a breakfast buffet featuring traditional Irish fare or giving revelers a spot to sit and watch the local parade. The Godfrey Hotel in Chicago offers bottomless drinks and a breakfast buffet, giving party-goers a festive way to kick off their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
17. Shamrock ball
A Shamrock ball celebrates St. Patrick’s Day while raising money for a worthy cause. This cocktail or black-tie event can feature a plated dinner, drinks, and entertainment. Ticket sales can go toward a charity of your choice, or host a silent auction to raise additional money.
St. Patrick’s Day virtual event ideas
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day isn’t limited to in-person gatherings. Consider these St. Patrick’s Day virtual event ideas to include as many guests as possible in your event.
18. A traditional Irish comfort food-making class
Cozymeal hosted an online cooking class called Boozy Irish Comfort Food, showcasing a delectable traditional cottage pie and an Irish car bomb pie for dessert. Irish cuisine offers a wide range of flavors and ingredients, so mix it up with adventurous dishes like black pudding and crubeens, or showcase how to make a cheese such as Irish cheddar.
19. A virtual introduction to Gaeilge
The Irish language has roots that are lost in the mists of time but can be dated back to at least the 3rd or 4th century. It’s related to the Celtic languages of the ancient Gauls, as well as to modern-day Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Breton. Introduce language lovers to the unique sounds and spellings of this venerable tongue. You might be surprised by how many Irish language academics would be open to sharing their knowledge online.
20. An online Irish-themed sketch event
The New York City Urban Sketchers regularly puts on sketch events, designed to get participants to draw the places where they live and travel. To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, event attendees gathered online and sketched images of Ireland together. If you host a creative online event, let participants interact by breaking out into groups for feedback and notes and then sharing their creations with others.
21. Hold a cookie-decorating class
Bake Irish-inspired cookies shaped like shamrocks, pint glasses, rainbows, and other shapes associated with the holiday. Participants can pick up their cookies before the event. Then, they’ll gather virtually to decorate cookies together. During the online Zoom session, everyone can learn how to bring the treats to life with colorful royal icing.
22. A virtual Irish Whiskey masterclass
Host a virtual Irish whiskey tasting by sending attendees samples in advance so everyone can taste them together during a video call. Alternatively, provide free access to the event itself but ask attendees to purchase their own bottle of the brand you’re featuring so that everyone enjoys the experience together. Follow these tips for engaging virtual event attendees.
23. A Q&A with an Irish bestseller
London’s Brent Libraries capitalized on St. Patrick’s Day by hosting an online reading and live Q&A with Carmel Harrington, an author from Co. Wexford. After hearing a passage from her novel, “My Pear-Shaped Life”, the audience was invited to share their experiences of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and overseas. The event gave people the opportunity to reminisce together, tell stories, and listen — a heartwarming way to celebrate Irish togetherness. Learn how to host a livestream with these tips.
24. Host a virtual tour
You don’t have to visit Ireland to learn more about the country on St. Patrick’s Day. Host a virtual tour of a museum or art gallery in Ireland. Or, partner with a local tour guide who can share videos and images of notable sites and landmarks virtually for your attendees.
25. Create an online kids’ class
Let kids learn about Irish history, culture, art, or music by hosting a class online. Make the class interactive to engage young attendees by playing games or doing crafts together. St. Albert Family Resource Center is hosting a virtual class that teaches kids about St. Patrick’s Day in a fun and creative way.
Sláinte! You’re ready for St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating Irish history and culture in your community, and you can do so in many creative ways. Consider what types of events appeal to your target audience, and offer a festive celebration this St. Patrick’s Day. When you’re ready to plan and promote your event, use Eventbrite to engage your community and grow your audience.