St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday steeped in history that’s transitioned into a much-loved celebration of fun, community, and maybe even a little bit of debauchery.
While, in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is more of a religious holiday, Americans recognize the holiday as a way to celebrate the Irish heritage found all across the nation. Here in Charleston, we participate with our typical Southern Hospitality.
To prepare for the holiday, here’s everything that you need to know about St. Patrick’s Day in Charleston.
What is St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day recognizes the death of St. Patrick. In Ireland, where the holiday first emerged, those practicing Lent can have the day off as Lenten promises are waived in favor of food, drinks, and dancing.
St. Patrick is Ireland’s patron saint and national apostle. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland when he was 16, escaped, but later returned to bring Christianity to the Irish people. The holiday came to the US in the early 1700s when the first St. Patrick’s Day parade occurred in New York City. Since then, massive St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are seen across the country.
St. Patrick’s Day events in Charleston
Charleston celebrates the holiday with some of the biggest parades of the year, block parties, pub crawls, and more. Let’s see what’s happening this year.
Charleston St. Patrick’s Day Parade
On Thursday, March 17, Charleston’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade is back! At 8am, those who want can join the St. Patrick’s Day mass at St. Patrick Catholic Church. The parade itself begins at 10am and begins at the corner of Radcliffe Street & Saint Philip Street and continues down King Street to Broad Street.
Come join thousands of spectators as they enjoy the long line of military units, police officers, firefighters, marching bands, fiddlers, dancers, and more. Afterwards, you’ll be in the prime location to grab some beer or pub grub at a local bar.
Join a pub crawl
Whether you’re new to Charleston, just visiting the area, or don’t quite know your favorite watering hole, a pub crawl is a great way to explore the city while celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.
The Lucky’s St. Patrick’s Day Crawl offers three different options in Charleston, Savannah, and Myrtle Beach. Each event includes two complimentary drinks, a costume contest, drink specials, food specials, waived cover at all venues, professional photographers, and more.
Head to an Irish bar
In any city in the world, you can find some sort of Irish pub. Charleston is the only place that offers the comfort of a pub setting with that Southern hospitality that we all know and love. Here are some local Irish bars that locals can’t get enough of.
Mac’s Place brings the Chicago Irish heritage to Charleston. Featuring plenty of televisions to watch your favorite team, American- and Irish-style pub grub, and a wide variety of bottled, draught, and canned beer, this is one place where you can spend hours.
The Griffon is a local favorite known for the unique decoration of dollar bills affixed to the walls. In fact, they made national news when they took a portion of those dollar bills from their walls to help financially support staff during the pandemic. Come here to enjoy a wide variety of local brews, British favorites like fish & chips, and American classics like chili fries. Be aware that they don’t take reservations, so you should arrive early to guarantee a seat.
The Knot (formerly known as The Celtic Knot) offers many Irish favorites, like shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and fish & chips, as well as a vast, ever-rotating beer menu. For those looking for more American-style fare, there are also tons of burger options and other choices. This year, they are hosting a St. Patrick’s Day party starting at 11am, including Irish brunch, loads of drink specials, swag, and even tiny bike jousting. Under 21 will only be allowed in the dining area until 5pm.
Tommy Condon’s combines the Irish aesthetic with Lowcountry vibes in this quintessential Irish pub. With a menu including corned beef & cabbage, fish & chips, and shepherd’s pie alongside shrimp & grits and jambalaya, they are sure to have a little something for everyone. They also offer a wide variety of beer, wine, and Irish whiskey to wet your whistle. On Thursday, enjoy a long list of live music, including Swamp Fox, Kevin Church, and The Bograts.
O’Brion’s Pub & Grille offers a wide variety of local and imported draught beers, Irish cuisine like shepherd’s pie, as well as American fare for a variety of options to please any palate. This year, come to O’Brion’s to enjoy live music, swag, and more at an all-day event that begins at 11am. It’s one St. Paddy’s Day celebration that you won’t want to miss.
Want to avoid the Irish pub madness? Check out our list of the top bars in Charleston where you can get your St. Paddy’s Day drink on.
Host a St. Patrick’s Day party
Don’t want to deal with St. Patrick’s Day crowds? Host your own St. Patrick’s Day event! Hosting an event isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together some party ideas so that you can spend less time planning and more time drinking Guinness.
St. Patrick’s Day decorations
The best way to get in the St. Paddy’s Day mood is to decorate your home properly. Decorations don’t have to break the bank. Just stick with green motifs, shamrocks, and some pots of gold, and you’re golden!
You can’t go wrong with a St. Patrick’s Day banner. You can easily make one with string, construction paper, tape, and markers. Simply cut out some flags and shamrocks, affix them to the string, and write out your St. Patrick’s Day greeting. Or, if you don’t have time to create the banner on your own, buy a banner online.
Make a shamrock wreath. Simply cut out shamrocks from colored paper and glue them to a wreath-shaped backing. Add some texture by folding the shamrocks so that the leaves stick out away from the backing or attach further decorations like ribbons or glue. To create the perfect shamrock shape, use shamrock cookie cutters as a stencil.
Use green food coloring to greenify your lagers. Make your libations your decorations by mixing a little green food coloring into your lagers and other light-colored beers. Your guests will feel as though they’re at an Irish pub without the crowds and craziness.
Paint cork coasters. This can be both a decoration and an activity. Get some plain cork coasters and different shades of green, gold, and black paint, and let your guests’ imaginations run wild. This is the perfect activity for adults and kids alike as they can decorate their own coasters. Make sure to get paint that dries quickly, and start the activity early in the day so that their coasters have time to dry once they need to use them.
Use balloons to set the scene. Is it even a party without balloons? Get plenty of green, white, and gold balloons and use them to decorate the house. Make some shamrock balloon decorations. Frame the door with balloons. Tape balloons around windows. Balloons offer a fast and easy way to create a festive feel, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to decorate.
St. Patrick’s Day activities
Start with offering pot o’ gold party favors. Fill little cauldron kettles with party favors like green beads, chocolate coins, and even small bottles of Irish whiskey. This will help your guests get in the mood, don some green (if they aren’t wearing any already), and have their first drink of the night started.
Provide a green tie-dye station. Have your guests bring white items like socks, t-shirts, pillowcases, or whatever they want dyed. Then, they can use green dye, provided by you, to create their tie-dye masterpieces. This is the perfect activity for parties that start in the afternoon so that you can place the station outside and let the tie-dye creations dry throughout the day and evening.
Host a costume contest. Encourage your guests to dress in the craziest green attire that they can think of, then have participants show off their creations to the other guests. Everyone can vote for their favorite, and the one with the most votes can enjoy a small prize.
Have an Irish-themed cocktail competition. Have your guests split into teams in order to create the best Irish-themed cocktail on the spot. Give each group proper supplies and 30 minutes to come up with their cocktail of choice. Then, have every group conduct a blind tasting and vote for their favorite drink. If you don’t have the budget to provide a variety of ingredients, let your guests know of the competition ahead of time so that they can bring the supplies that they need.
Decorate cookies. This activity is genius because it allows you to offer a delicious treat with half of the effort. Prepare shamrock-shaped sugar cookies ahead of time, then offer green and white frosting, Irish-themed sprinkles, and other decorative tools and have your guests decorate their own cookies.
St. Patrick’s Day food
You can’t just have libations at a St. Paddy’s party. You’ve got to have some food as well. Luckily, one of the main features of St. Paddy’s Day is its food options. Here are some Irish food classics for you and your guests to enjoy.
Corned beef & cabbage is the go-to St. Patrick’s Day meal. A simple meal, it originated among Irish immigrants to the United States. The Irish made more money than they had under British rule in Ireland which allowed them to buy meat for the first time. They primarily bought their meat from Jewish kosher butchers in places like New York City. They would cook the corned beef with steamed cabbage and potatoes, and hence, the Irish corned beef and cabbage was born. Learn how to make corned beef and cabbage here.
Shepherd’s Pie, while less common on St. Patrick’s Day, is arguably more Irish than corned beef & cabbage. A struggle food, shepherd’s pie became popular in British-ruled Ireland when the potato became one of Ireland’s main crops. Because of British rule, the Irish made almost no money, and they couldn’t afford much meat. This resulted in the creation of the shepherd’s pie—a culmination of the food items that the oppressed Irish could afford. Here’s an easy shepherd’s pie recipe for you to try.
A pasty is another treat that originated in Ireland. It essentially consists of stew wrapped in a flaky bread shell. Although it was eaten mostly by the upper class in the early days of the pasty, in the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish wives would cook pasties for their miner husbands to eat during lunch. The pasty could easily be held while still providing a hearty, proper lunch, which was essential in the dirty, dangerous mines. Mini pasties make a great party appetizer for your St. Paddy’s Day celebration.
Irish soda bread is a simple bread recipe that’s surprisingly tasty. Created due to lack of resources and finances, Irish soda bread uses baking soda as a leavener and consists of only wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk. You can easily make a big batch of Irish soda bread for your guests to eat alongside their corned beef or shepherd’s pie, or offer a variety of dips and spreads for them to enjoy. Check out an easy soda bread recipe here.
Create a potato snack plate. Potatoes are famously associated with the Irish. What better time to try out your favorite potato recipes than on St. Patrick’s Day? Try mashed potatoes (and consider dyeing them green), potato skins, stuffed potatoes, tater tots, and more. For a bunch of potato-based recipes, check out this cookbook.
St. Patrick’s Day is a day of fun, feasting, and plenty of libations. Take advantage of the plethora of activities happening in Charleston this week or have your own celebration at home. Either way, it will be a day to remember.