St. Patrick’s Day isn’t all green beer and college parties—it’s an occasion with deep historical roots that can be celebrated anywhere. Do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day at work? In this post, we’ll cover the origins of St. Patrick’s Day and how it evolved from a Christian feast celebrating St. Patrick to parades filled with green beer and leprechauns, and we’ll share seven St. Patrick’s Day work ideas that will help you celebrate responsibly at the office.
The Origins of St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day has been observed as a religious holiday by the Irish for over 1000 years. But who was Saint Patrick?
Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle. He was born in Roman Britain in the fifth century and brought to Ireland as a slave. Although he later escaped, he returned and is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. As the legend goes, he explained the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit) by using the three leaves of the shamrock, the native Irish clover. ☘️
Saint Patrick is believed to have died on March 17, 461, and the Irish have observed the holiday since the ninth or 10th century. Since the feast day occurred during the Christian season of lent, which prohibited the consumption of meat, this rule was waived on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish people would go to church in the morning but then spend the afternoon and evening dancing, drinking, and eating the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.
But guess what: the first St. Patrick’s Day parade wasn’t held in Ireland—it was held in Florida on March 17, 1601! (It was actually a Spanish colony back then.) But it was well over a hundred years before the next parade. The next St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on March 17, 1772, in New York City, and it was organized by homesick Irish soldiers who were serving in the British army.
But why has St. Patrick’s Day become synonymous around the world with green beer and general debauchery?
Well, when Irish Catholics arrived in droves on American shores in the 1800s to flee the Great Irish Potato Famine, they were despised by the Irish Protestants already here as well as the wider American Protestant majority. When these Irish Americans celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, they were portrayed in cartoons in the newspapers as violent, drunken monkeys.
Since there were over a million Irish immigrants, they soon realized they could wield a great deal of political power. If a politician made allies of Irish voters, they would very likely win. So, the St. Patrick’s Day parades became a major show of strength and were attended by a huge number of political candidates.
St. Patrick’s Day parades have only grown since then, and now more than 100 parades are held across the United States, the biggest being in Boston and New York City. But there’s more to St. Patrick’s Day than parades—namely, drinking. 🍻
Many people around the world (and especially college students) celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by drinking from sunrise to sunset. Ironically, in Ireland, Irish laws mandated that pubs be closed on March 17 until the 1970s. It was only in 1995 that the Irish government began to use interest in St. Patrick’s Day to encourage tourism.
Green beer is another St. Patrick’s Day tradition that started in the United States. It’s not totally clear who invented it, but the creation of green beer is usually attributed to Professor Thomas H. Curtin. This tradition really hit its stride in the 1950s, so green beer has been synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day for quite a while—but it has nothing to do with Irish tradition. 💚🍺
How to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day at Work
St. Patrick’s Day may often be associated with drinking for many people, but there are tame yet festive ways you can celebrate in the workplace. Use the following St. Patrick’s Day ideas for work to spark creativity, increase morale, and inspire team building.
1. Provide St. Patrick’s Day Themed Snacks or Cater a Lunch 🥧
As with most things, the best part is the food. The traditional foods of St. Patrick’s Day are corned beef, cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Irish soda bread, and colcannon (which is mashed potatoes with cabbage.)
Do your best to find local businesses you can support within your community rather than chain establishments. Do you have a local pub or eatery nearby that you can support? Be sure to get your order in well in advance if you’re ordering food on the actual St. Patrick’s Day.
Do you have team members who enjoy cooking? Another option involving food is to have a St. Patrick’s Day-themed office potluck. Anyone can bring in their favorite themed dish, snack, or dessert.
2. Participate in Local Festivities 🥳
St. Patrick’s Day is a perfect opportunity to get involved with your local community. Do some research to find out what events, parades, or other celebrations are happening near you.
How can your business and your team get involved in these festivities? Are you able to sponsor an event? Are you able to participate in an event as a team? Are you able to run your own community event if there aren’t many options near you?
Community involvement is great for your team, your customers, and your brand.
3. Decorate the Office 🌈
Get festive with some office decorating, including everything green, gold, rainbows, shamrocks, and leprechauns.
You can choose to decorate a shared space together, such as the break room, lounge, or kitchen. Or make it a friendly competition by having each employee or each office decorate their office door.
Give out prizes to the most festive team members and allow your office to work in teams to promote team building and collaboration. Just make sure they also work together to take the decorations down on March 18.
4. Dress Up With a Theme 🍀
Keep the St. Patrick’s Day spirit going with an optional dress-up day. Your team can keep it simple by wearing green, or you can encourage more elaborate costumes. Take a photo to document the occasion and share it on your social media channels. You can also ask your community and clients to participate and share their team photos as well.
This is a great activity for remote or hybrid teams, as you can have Zoom dress-up meetings that include everyone, no matter where they are located.
5. St. Patrick’s Day Games for the Office 🧩
Play some St. Patrick’s Day games in the workplace on March 17, or use some St. Patrick’s Day icebreakers at the beginning of your meetings. Make sure you schedule time into your meeting agenda so that you don’t take time away from other important meeting topics.
Consider how you can include your remote team in virtual activities, such as St. Patrick’s Day-themed trivia, bingo, or print-at-home coloring pages.
6. Put on an Irish Music Playlist 🎶
Traditional Irish music is a genre of folk music. It’s typically very high-energy, colorful music that employs fast and intricate lyrics and lots of different instruments, such as a fiddle (violin), a flute, a harp, uilleann pipes, and an accordion. Over the years, popular Irish bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly have blended the Irish sounds with rock’n’roll and punk rock music.
A St. Patrick’s Day work playlist will certainly set the mood for the day, as Irish music has a very distinct sound—distinct enough to make your office feel a wee bit like a pub. Just be careful your team members don’t jump up from their desks and start to dance a jig.
You’ll find many playlist options on Spotify. Here are some playlists to get you started:
7. End the Day With Cheers and Beers 🍺
St. Patrick’s Day work activities can include social team building outside of the workplace. Take time on St. Patrick’s Day to end the day with cheers and beers (in this case, green beer!) This is a chance to celebrate recent wins, employee success, or business goals reached. It’s important to continually celebrate your team members in order to boost morale and provide positive reinforcement.
When you go out, look for a local establishment to support. Ideally, pick somewhere the whole team can walk to from the office.
If you don’t have any local pubs nearby, or if you live in an unlucky city that gets snow in mid-March, you can bring the drinks to the workplace. Purchase some locally-made beer (or Guinness to be traditional), green food coloring, Irish whiskey, or your team's preferred cocktail mixes, and give your team a chance to unwind over a drink for the last hour of the day. Have non-alcoholic/mocktail options available as well.
More Ways to Celebrate
We’re always up for a good celebration! Follow our office supplies blog for the latest event ideas, office trends, team building strategies, and more.
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