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21 St. Patrick's Day traditions that'll add a bit 'o fun to your holiday

Celebrate March 17 with these festive ideas, spirited games and Irish-inspired activities.

Whether you're Irish or just pretending for the sake of the holiday, you may be looking to level up your St. Paddy's celebration this year.

While dining on corned beef and drinking a pint of Guinness are time-honored St. Patrick's Day traditions, there are plenty of other ways to show your support of the Emerald Isle.

To help inspire your holiday festivities, we've collected some of our favorite traditions. Trust us when we say that these St. Paddy's activities are worth their weight in gold.

Among them you'll find customs like donning a badge or rosette to display your Irish pride, as well as wearing green, which is practically mandatory on March 17. Other clever ideas include watching Irish movies, playing St. Patrick's Day games or learning how to do the jig.

If sitting down for an authentic St. Paddy's dinner is more your speed, we've got suggestions for making Irish soda bread, along with other holiday treats just for kids and a few adult-inspired ones, like making Irish cocktails to accompany your Irish blessing or toast.

You can also just kick back and tell a few leprechaun jokes or entertain friends and family with a rousing round of St. Patrick's Day trivia questions to test their knowledge on all things Irish.

In this collection, you'll find expert blogger recommendations as well as a few suggestions of our own. Whichever you go with, these St. Patrick's Day traditions are sure to have Irish eyes a-smiling all day long.

Visit a green river

Dyeing the Chicago River green on St. Patrick's day
Yannick Tylle / Getty Images

Perhaps one of the most festive St. Paddy's Day traditions celebrated across the U.S. is the dyeing of rivers green in honor of the Irish holiday. Do some investigating and find out if one near you is getting a makeover, then plan a field trip to see it up-close and in person. Among the most notable are the Chicago River and the San Antonio River, but plenty of other towns and cities nationwide commemorate the occasion by turning fountains, canals and other waterways green.

Share an Irish Blessing

You don't have to be from the Emerald Isle to appreciate an Irish Blessing. Full of wisdom and meaningful verses, these sentiments are known the world over and are a sweet way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

One of the most beloved is this traditional Irish Blessing:

"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."

Tell Irish jokes or puns

St. Patrick's day
Getty Images

What do you get when you cross poison ivy with a four-leaf clover? A rash of good luck.

Why are leprechauns so good at gardening? Because they have a green thumb.

Incorporate a sense of humor into your St. Paddy's Day celebration by telling a few jokes like the ones found above, or tickle your loved ones' funny bone with an Irish-inspired pun on leprechauns, rainbows, shamrocks or anything else related to March 17.

All the laughs will be worth their weight in...well, gold.

Wear a St. Patrick's Day badge or rosette

St. Patrick's Day buttons displaying Irish pride
Getty Images

Celebrate the Irish with the old custom of wearing either a badge or rosette in honor of the holiday. In tribute to St. Patrick, a fifth-century missionary and bishop, a long-standing folk tradition is that children display badges to show their Emerald-Isle pride. Girls wear rosettes made of colored ribbon and boys don badges crafted from colored paper.

Make your own as part of a St. Paddy's Day craft project or purchase a rosette from one of the many stores that still sell them today.

Learn an Irish dance

Irish dancer
James Jordan Photography / Getty Images

While the jig is the most common Irish dance, there are plenty of others associated with Ireland like step dancing and tap. Whether you watch a tutorial online or take your inspiration from "Riverdance," learn a few steps (or a whole routine), then show off your newfound skills to family and friends.

Watch an Irish movie

Press play and transport yourself to the rolling hills of Ireland. Let Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson show you what it's like to live on a remote island off of Ireland in "The Banshees of Inisherin," which took home the top prize at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards. Or warm your heart (and break it) while watching "P.S. I Love You" starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.

Listen to Irish music

Throw together a playlist with all of your favorite Irish tunes, everything from the Dropkick Murphys to classic Celtic chants. Then crank it up and have a St. Patrick's inspired dance party.

Cook a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast

Full Irish breakfast
Getty Images / iStockphoto

Susan Buonpane, the blogger behind Crafting a Family Dinner, always starts St. Patrick’s Day with a big, delicious breakfast. You can serve up some of her favorites to your family, like potato pancakes, breakfast sausage, applesauce and Irish coffee for the adults. Or come up with your own Irish-inspired foods to serve and make breakfast a yearly St. Paddy’s tradition for your family.

Invite leprechauns to visit

leprechaun trap for St Patrick's Day
Lure in some leprechauns with a rainbow-colored trap, complete with gold coins. Skip to My Lou

“Leprechauns have been known to visit our house and make a little mischief from time to time,” says Chelsea Foy, founder of?Lovely Indeed. She tells TODAY.com that if you have younger children, looking for leprechauns can add a bit of magic to their day. "Leave a little trail of tiny footprints (drawn on paper or made with flour on the kitchen counter) leading to a little pile of gold chocolate coins and a note from a friendly leprechaun. Your kiddos will be absolutely enchanted," Foy says.

Cindy Hopper of Skip To My Lou takes things to the next level and builds a DIY Leprechaun Trap with her children. “Kids will be so excited to try to catch a leprechaun,” she tells TODAY.com.

Put up decorations

Like any other holiday, St. Patrick’s Day deserves some festive decorations. Buonpane says her family has always loved decorating their home for various holidays, and St. Patrick’s Day isn’t any different.

“We like to decorate our home with a variety of shamrock crafts,” she says. “We have been making this beautiful and easy Shamrock Banner. We string it across our fireplace mantel every year.” Go with the tried-and-true shamrock shapes, or simply decorate your home in top-to-bottom green to revel in the holiday.

Go to a St. Patrick's Day parade

Do you and your family go to a St. Patrick’s Day parade every year? If not, it’s definitely something you should do with your kids. If you live in a small town and a parade isn’t scheduled, turn it into a fun trip by seeing a St. Patrick’s Day parade in a big city, like Chicago or New York.

Foy says that when she lived in New York City, she and her family looked forward to their tradition of watching the St. Patrick’s Day parade.?

“It’s a legendary day in the city, with locals and tourists alike gathered to celebrate,” she says.

Bake treats

St Patrick's Day treats
Getty Images / iStockphoto

One easy St. Patrick’s Day tradition that you can carry out at home is making treats with your little ones. If your kids don’t typically bake with you, this can be a fun opportunity to spend some time together.?

Buonpane says that she bakes treats with her kids every holiday, who eagerly anticipate making sugar cookies with a shamrock-shaped cookie cutter every year. To dress them up, they combine a simple milk and powdered sugar frosting with green food coloring and top them off with green sprinkles.

A bonus: These celebratory treats can also work as a decoration for the dinner table, too.

Wear green

Getty Images

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really St. Patrick’s Day until you’re wearing green! Calling this a “fun, kid-friendly and very easy tradition,” Foy says that wearing green “makes you invisible to leprechauns,” according to legend. Plus, if you’re not wearing green, you just might get pinched by a naughty leprechaun or another member of your family.

“Make sure to wear a little green or pin a shamrock on your kiddos and join in the fun,” Foy says.

Mandy Kellogg Rye, the blogger behind Waiting on Martha, has kept up with this tradition since she was little. “My belief in leprechauns may have waned, but my desire to not be pinched all day is still going strong,” she tells TODAY.com.

Sip on something brew-tiful

St Patricks Day background
Getty Images

This one goes out to the adults celebrating St. Paddy’s Day. After the kids are tucked in, sit down with your partner or a few friends and enjoy a pint of Guinness.

Or you could try a tradition that’s straight from the Emerald Isle: "drowning the shamrock." When all the St. Patrick’s Day festivities have come to an end, Rye dunks a shamrock (real or faux) into a glass of whiskey and then toast to a saint (or whomever you choose). After that, you’ll toss the shamrock over your left shoulder for extra luck.

Share a family meal

End your day by sharing a warm and hearty meal with your family.

“Enjoying a meal of corned beef and cabbage around the table with the people you love is a perfect way to celebrate,” Foy tells TODAY.com.

With food and drink “at the core” of her family’s celebrations, Rye carries on the St. Patrick’s Day dinner tradition from her childhood.

“Growing up, my mother would always make traditional corned beef and cabbage, which always felt like such an indulgence as it was the only time of year we’d feast on this traditional Irish meal,” she says. “As I’ve grown up and adopted this tradition for myself and my family, I’ve added a whole week of traditional Irish dishes along with the corned beef and cabbage. Some of my favorites include Guinness beef stew and homemade Irish soda bread.”

Try your hand at trivia

Here’s something you can do at the dinner table while savoring that Irish meal. Test your family’s knowledge to see how much they know about St. Paddy’s Day with some trivia about the holiday's history.

Make a green and gold cocktail

“One of the simplest but most eagerly anticipated ways my husband and I celebrate is with a cocktail in honor of St. Patrick’s Day,” Foy says. “I make a delicious?Golden Irish Mule?with edible gold flakes, and it’s a perfect drink to share for the occasion. Having a traditional cocktail or mocktail for a holiday is a fun and festive tradition.”

Share cocktails and turn St. Patrick’s Day into a mini date night after your little leprechauns have gone to bed.

Learn some history

Buonpane says that one of her family traditions is to learn the history and origin of each holiday — St. Patrick’s Day included.?

“As you cook and decorate for the St. Patrick’s holiday with your family, sprinkle in the history and details about St. Patrick and the holiday,” she says. Gather info from the internet or break out a book to share some interesting factoids.

Deliver sweets to friends and family

Hopper suggests using St. Patrick's Day to tell friends or extended family members how lucky you are to have them in your life. Mark this special occasion by delivering treats to your loved ones, complete with printable treat tags for St. Patrick’s Day.

Play games

From a cookie-decorating contest to playing some shamrock bingo, St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect chance to play some festive games that will inspire great memories and friendly competition.

Search for a pot of gold

St Patricks Day Pot of Gold with rainbow & decor against wood
Getty Images / iStockphoto

One St. Patrick’s Day tradition that Rye has adopted in recent years is what she calls “a spin on searching for that pot of gold.”

She and her husband always try their luck by attempting to find some gold in the form of lottery scratch-off tickets. It’s not exactly a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it’s something fun you can enjoy each year with other adults.

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