Why St. Patrick’s Day is a Drinking Holiday, and How to Stay Sober

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As spring approaches, many of us are looking forward to the bright, green, and festive holiday known as St. Patrick’s Day.

In the past, you’ve likely spent a St. Paddy’s Day or two drinking and celebrating with friends and family. But why do we drink on St. Patrick’s Day, and how can you avoid it if you want to stay sober?

March 17th can be a challenging day if you’re in recovery from alcohol use disorder, or trying to avoid drinking for any reason. But with a few strategies in your arsenal, you can still take part in the fun—completely alcohol-free. Below, learn why drinking is so popular on St. Patrick’s Day, and some of the best tips to help you stay sober.

Why is St. Patrick’s Day a Drinking Holiday

several hands raising beer pints on st paddy's day
Photo by Des Récits on Unsplash

So, why do we drink on St. Patrick’s Day? To give some context, here’s a brief history of how the holiday began:

Saint Patrick was born in the fifth century in Roman Britain. When he was 16, he was captured and brought to Ireland, where he was enslaved for six years.1

Eventually, he escaped back to Britain, where he became a priest. Years later, he went back to Ireland and brought Christianity to the region with him. He passed away on March 17th, 461, and thus, the date became St. Patrick’s Day.

Legend has it that Saint Patrick liked to have a drink from time to time—but funnily enough, that’s not the reason people drink on his holiday.2

Instead, it’s because the celebration falls in the middle of Lent, a 40-day period when Christians focus on charity, fasting, and prayer. Lent’s restrictions are suspended for St. Patrick’s Day, so people have historically eaten (and drank) to their heart’s content to celebrate the holiday.

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How To Stay Sober on St. Patrick’s Day

You might be wondering: How can you have a sober St. Patrick’s Day when everyone else is drinking?

While it can be challenging in recovery, it can all go smoothly with the right action plan. Here are a few tips that can help you do just that:

Dealing With Drinking Triggers on St. Paddy’s Day

It’s best to prepare yourself for triggers and cravings on St. Patrick’s Day, especially if you’re early on in recovery. Even if you’re not 100 percent sober and are just cutting back, all the drinking you’ll see can be a bit overwhelming.

With this in mind, here are four effective strategies to help you deal with triggers:

  • Keep a nonalcoholic drink in your hand. It’s even better if it’s in a red cup. People won’t bother you to ask if you want a drink, and you’ll have something to sip to keep your mind off of alcohol.
  • Plan how you’ll say no. If you’re trying to stay sober on St. Patrick’s Day, you may encounter some social pressure to drink. Plan how you’ll react, and practice some polite, but firm ways to turn down alcohol.
  • Take a walk outside if you feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to remove yourself from any situation, and it doesn’t have to be a big deal if you do. When you feel triggered, feel free to step outside to clear your head.
  • Unite with a sober friend or loved one. Reach out to someone you can trust and plan to stay in touch with them throughout the day. Having an accountability partner and supportive friend to lean on can make a big difference when faced with triggers.

Read more: Dealing With Drinking Triggers

Nonalcoholic St. Paddy’s Day Beverages

st patrick's day parade in nyc with bagpipe players
Photo by Prescott Horn on Unsplash

You might find yourself worrying that the holiday might be “missing” something without alcohol. But the good news is that you can complete it with festive, nonalcoholic St. Paddy’s Day drinks instead.

Here are some colorful and tasty recipes to try:

Finding Sober St. Patrick’s Day Events

So, where can you find sober St. Patrick’s Day events when you don’t have any plans?

A good first step is to use Google to search for local sober events in your area. Additionally, you can look for sober bars near you. They may be celebrating the holiday with others who also prefer not to drink.

If you can’t find an alcohol-free event hosted by someone else, perhaps you’d like to host one yourself. You could try:

  • Hosting a family-friendly craft night with your loved ones and friends.
  • Organizing a St. Paddy’s Day potluck and inviting your friends to bring their own Irish-themed dishes.
  • Having a St. Patrick’s Day movie night and watching Irish-themed films like “My Left Foot,” “Once,” or “The Commitments.”
  • Hosting an alcohol-free party. Invite your favorite people and put together some snacks and mocktails for everyone to enjoy!

As St. Patrick’s Day Approaches, Remember This:

If you’ve been worried about staying sober on St. Patrick’s Day, know that you don’t have to deal with your concerns alone. For extra support, it may be worth looking into online programs like Ria Health.

You don’t have to consider yourself an alcoholic to sign up with Ria Health. We offer support for anyone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol, including online coaching and support groups—all from an app on your phone.

Learn more or get started today.


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Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Alicia is a Minnesota-based freelancer who writes for Ria Health and various other brands in the health and wellness space. Beyond addiction and recovery, she also covers topics relating to general well-being, mindfulness, fitness, mental health, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with her three-legged cat, trying new workout routines, and spending time with her loved ones.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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