Holiday Avoidance

5 Ways to Skip St. Patrick’s Day

In America, March 17 celebrations can feel like one big ethnic slur. Here are some alternatives.

By Margaret Seiler March 6, 2018

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Your chances of encountering "fake-Irishry" during a spa treatment at the Allison Inn's Wellness Weekend are very, very low.

I love Guinness and soda bread and cabbage. (Potatoes I can take or leave.) A trip to Ireland pretty much ended my vegetarianism, so I also love fried fish from a chipper. I love The Commitments and The Snapper and Sing Street and Sinead O’Connor and The Secret of Roan Inish and The Quiet Man. I happened upon the matchmaking festival that Janeane Garofalo rom-com is based on, so I love that, too. I’m one of those annoying lit majors who never misses a chance to quote Ulysses. Invite me over for a stately, plump feast for St. Paddy’s Day? Yes I said yes I will yes. Oh, and of course I am Irish—well, like, one-eighth from my mom’s grandmother, and another little sliver way, way back on my dad’s side.

So I’m just the kind of American an actual Irish person might roll their eyes at, claiming shared heritage while reducing their country to a cartoon: the quaint countryside, the seaside villages, the fiery redheads, the quirky old folks, the writers overcoming their repression, the bored kids on dirty Dublin streets in the ’80s. But it’s a cartoon I can enjoy privately. At least it’s not the Irish cartoon that takes over American bars and stumble zones every March 17: green beer, glitter-coated bowler hats, drinks called “Irish car bombs,” hordes of drunken idiots slurring already slurred Pogues lyrics. This year, March 17 lands on a Saturday, so the Ye Olde Irish Stereotypes don’t have the usual work/school-night responsibilities to keep them in check. 

“We always knew as Irish people that Americans were taking St. Patrick’s Day to the next level,” says my Portland Monthly colleague Fiona McCann, an actual Irish person and fiery redhead (oops, there I go again with the cartoon, but she really is!) who remembers hearing rumors about green dye added to things like rivers and beer in far-off America. At home, she says, it’s a national holiday, and certainly not one when people get up early to exercise à la Portland’s Shamrock Run. Everyone goes to the parade, kids are excited to get sweets even though it’s during Lent, and adults stake out their spots in the pub for a night of drinking, yes, but also singing. 

McCann’s been a little overwhelmed in the past by packed US bars on March 17. This year, she says she might brave T.C. O’Leary’s on Alberta. “It’s the closest thing to an Irish pub I’ve found in America. You don’t get as much of the, I don’t know what to call it, fake-Irishry.”

But she also supports Americans simply doing something else on that day if they're not feelin' the green. So here are some ways to honor Ireland by having a completely non-“Irish” St. Patrick’s Day. 

Escape to ... Newberg?

Yoga, wine spa treatments, lessons from a nutritionist, a garden-to-table lunch, and happy hour heavy apps await at the Allison Inn & Spa Wellness Weekend in Newberg. There’s a field trip to Hazelfern Cellars, and “designated spa time to rest, relax, and let go” at the Allison itself, Newberg’s wine-focused luxury hotel. A day-pass option on the 17th is available for $135 plus add-ons, with overnight packages starting at $485. Risk of encountering a drunken leprechaun: low. 

Make It Opposite Day puts the opposite side of the world from Ireland somewhere around the Auckland Islands archipelago, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with no permanent human habitation. Spend March 17 reading up on Aucklands natives like yellow-eyed penguin, or maybe the islands’ failed settlements, their history of shipwrecks, and their famous megaherbs. Impress your friends with your new knowledge, plan a really expensive vacation, or just think seriously about starting a band or a pot shop called Megaherb. Risk of encountering a drunken leprechaun: nil.  

Pick a Different Saint

March 17 is also the feast day of Gertrude of Nivelles, an early nun who, legend has it, announced at age 10 she wasn’t so hot on an arranged marriage and went on to cofound an abbey with her mom in what’s now southern Belgium. So you could sneak off to Bazi Bierbrasserie for some Belgian beer and Flemish frites on March 17. Bazi’s screening a soccer match that morning between Liverpool and Watford, two Premier League teams with zero Irish footballers. This March 17 is also the closest Saturday to St. Joseph’s Day (Jesus’s dad’s feast day is technically March 19), a Lenten observance that Occidental Brewing in St. Johns uses as an excuse to smoke a great deal of pork for sandwiches to accompany its barrel-aged Lucubrator doppelbock. (Disclosure: Occidental is owned by this writer’s husband and nephew, but that doesn’t make the pulled pork any less delicious.) Risk of encountering a drunken leprechaun: medium to high—there’s beer around, after all.

Feast on Portland Dining Month

There are well over 100 not-at-all-Irish restaurants offering $33 three-course meals as part of Portland Dining Month. Each day also features a Dining Month pop-up through Feastly; March 17’s is a decidedly non-Irish Caribbean meal. Risk of encountering a drunken leprechaun: medium, depending on proximity to bars. 

Join the Riveters for Thorns Preseason

Catch the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League champions the Portland Thorns in their preseason spring invitational at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field. After games against the Chicago Red Stars (March 11) and the US Women’s National Team’s Under-23 squad (March 14), the Thorns face the Houston Dash. Presale tickets are just $7. Risk of encountering a drunken leprechaun: low, despite being on the grounds of a Catholic college and the possible presence of a Dash player named “Kelly Conheeney.” She’s from New Jersey, not the Emerald Isle. 

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