Millions of Americans discover their Irish side every March 17. That’s when St. Patrick’s day is officially celebrated, most often with the aid of alcoholic beverages to get the party started. But why does this holiday always seem to involve getting drunk and losing control—and how can you regain some of that control for this year’s festivities? Let’s explore the odd, sometimes troubling relationship between this religious feast day and drinking, along with some ways you can celebrate more responsibly.
Understanding the Alcohol-St. Patrick’s Day Connection
That most famous of Irish holy men, St. Patrick was actually English by birth, living during the 4th and 5th centuries. As a teenager, he was taken to Ireland and enslaved for several years. He then returned to England, became a priest, and eventually went back to Ireland, where he converted thousands of Druids to Christianity. According to legend, his original name was Maewyn Succat; he adopted the name Patricius, Latin for “father figure,” after his religious training. He died in Ireland on March 17, in the year 461—St. Patrick’s Day.
Why do people choose the death of an Irish-English missionary as an excuse to drink like fish? The answer lies in the timing of the event itself. St. Patrick’s Day falls during the 40-day season of Lent. For many Christians, Lent is a time of sacrifice, with participants choosing to give up certain foods or pleasures, including alcohol. Since St. Patrick’s Day is considered a feast day, the restrictions associated with Lent are suspended for the occasion. Participants have naturally tended to go overboard with rich foods and plenty of drinking. Over time, St. Patrick’s Day became known among the general public more for its excesses than for its original meaning.
When Celebrations Turn Serious
You can expect the entertainment districts to serve up plenty of liquid fun every St. Patrick’s Day, from holiday drink specials to shamrock-green beer. It’s one of the most popular drinking days in America, after all. Unfortunately, you can also expect to hear some unsettling news the day after. According to WalletHub, 59 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017. Seventy-five percent of St. Patrick’s Day crashes involved a drunk driver, and 32 percent of pedestrians killed in 2017 holiday crashes had a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit. For people who have trouble controlling their alcohol consumption, the holiday dangles what can seem an irresistible temptation to give up all control whatsoever—with predictable consequences for their safety and health.
Tips for Enjoying a Healthier Holiday
How can you add a welcome degree of moderation to your St. Patrick’s Day festivities this year? You don’t have to swear off of alcohol completely; simply follow each pint of Guinness with a glass of water or another non-alcoholic drink to keep your tissues hydrated and slow your alcohol absorption rate. Diluting your Irish whiskey with water can also help you stretch out those drinks. Eating before drinking helps, too. If you’re not completely certain that your strategies will succeed, stick to public transportation or make arrangements in advance for a safe, sober ride home.
Would you like to figure out how to drink less and stop binging every time the opportunity arises? This could be the perfect time to look into the simple, home-based telemedicine program offered by Ria Health. Whether you want to drink moderately for the holiday or enjoy a totally alcohol-free St. Patrick’s Day, our program can provide much-needed help with alcohol cravings and skilled professional guidance to put control back in your hands. Your own “luck of the Irish” can start right now! Also check out Ria Health coach Laura Vincent’s tips for mindful drinking (winter holiday edition), and see some more St. Patrick’s Day stats and facts below.