St. Patrick’s Day has long been associated with drinking heavily. From bar crawls to restaurants offering St. Patrick’s themed alcoholic drinks to “Luck of the Irish” jokes and leprechaun costumes, it can be seen as a holiday that has no actual meaning.
William Spencer Reilly wants to change all that. The a television executive and special events producer came up with the idea for Sober St. Patrick’s Day after meeting a drunk young man wearing a shirt that said “St. Patrick’s Day Today, Hungover Tomorrow.”
“What if we had a party, a rip roaring party, without the booze?” wondered Reilly. “What would that be like?”
Sober St. Patrick’s Day is an annual event that attemps to “reclaim the true spirit of the day” by ditching the bars and alcohol in favor of music, dance and soft drinks.
“The true spirit of the day is very simple,” said Reilly. “It’s being proud of the great contributions of Irish and Irish-Americans and celebrating the depth of our culture.”
This culture will be on full display Monday night as dancers and musicians from New York and Ireland converge on Cathedral High School in Manhattan to celebrate just that.
St. Patrick’s Day is a feast day commemorating Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland as well as Irish culture in general. However, through the years, especially in America, the holiday has become estranged from its cultural roots and morphed into more of an alcoholic event.
“It became more about riotous behavior,” said Reilly. “The problem with that was it became, in some people’s minds, quasi-acceptable.”
But events like Sober St. Patrick’s Day and other events throughout the city are attempting to reintroduce the history and true-meaning back into the holiday.
If you’re in the mood for a party but want to forgo the bars, Sober St. Patrick’s Day is one possible destination. You'll find out what céilí drums and uilleann pipes are. The family-friendly event also features stories from storytelling champion Marianne McShane, dance performances by accomplished Irish dancers and a world-renowned fiddle performance.
"Authentic" St. Patrick's Day events:
Looking for a St. Patrick’s Day party without the booze? Sober St. Patrick’s Day is an event looking to “reclaim the true spirit of the day” by replacing the bars and alcohol with traditional Irish music and dance and soda making it a celebration suitable for adults and children alike.
Monday, March 17 from 4:00-7:30 p.m. at Cathedral High School, 350 E. 56th St. General Admission: $20. Students (under 21) and Seniors: $15. Children (under 10): $10. Info: 347-762-3717
The Irish are one of New York City’s largest ethnic groups, with an estimated population of over 2.5 million individuals. Large groups fled Ireland in the mid-1800s during the Irish Potato Famine and settled in the city. Get a glimpse into their world and explore the former “Little Ireland” located in the Lower East Side and learn a little bit about why St. Patrick’s Day is more popular here than back in Ireland.
Saturday, March 15 at 1 p.m. and Sunday, March 16 at 12 p.m. Groups meet in front of St. Paul’s Chapel at 601 W. 153rd St. on Broadway between Fulton St. and Vesey St. Adults: $20. Students/Seniors/Members: $15. Prepayment not required. Info: 888-606-9255
Spotted Dog. Dublin-Style Parsnip Colcannon. Learn what these are and how to cook them as you prepare an Irish luncheon. Along the way, discover how Irish cuisine is more than just corned beef and boiled cabbage. Other items on the menu include an Irishman’s Omelet and Beef & Guinness Stew.
Saturday, March 15 from 2 - p.m. at Bowery Culinary Center at Whole Foods Market, 95 E. Houston St. on the 2nd Floor. $45. Registration required. Info: 212-420-1320
Part-scavenger hunt and part-obstacle course the event will take you all around the city performing mental and physical challenges along the way. Sign up as a team and explore the city with your friends. Just make sure at least one of you has a smartphone (either Android or an iPhone). Cross the finish line and get a free beer.
Sunday, March 16 from 1 -4 p.m. at 137 Ludlow St. $20 Info: 718-344-8962
Explore the home of Seabury Tredwell, a prosperous New York City hardware merchant, and his family along with four Irish servants. The four story building was built in 1832 and is still furnished with the original furniture dating from 1835-1865. Climb the narrow staircase into the servants quarters.
Sunday, March 16, Tours at 12:30, 2, 3:30 p.m. at the Merchant’s House Museum, 29 E. 4th St. General Admission: $10. Students and Seniors (over 65): $5. Members and children under 12: Free. Info: 212-777-1089
Join Greenbelt educators as you hike and search for elusive leprechauns and their pots of gold. Hike is approximately one mile and is suitable for children ages 7 and up.
Sunday, March 16 at 1 p.m. at the Greenbelt Conservancy, 200 Nevada Ave. Staten Island. Free. Registration required. Info: 718-351-3450
Disbanding on November 8th, exactly 25 years after their first gig in the Bronx, the Black 47 led by Irish author, playwright and SiriusXM radio host, Larry Kirwan, will play at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill for their final St. Patrick’s Day show ever.
Monday, March 17 at 7 p.m. at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill, 237 W 42nd St. Doors open at 5 p.m.. Tickets in advance: $25. Day of: $30. Info: 212-997-4144
Explore the life of legendary New Yorker John Hughes, archbishop of New York during the Irish Famine immigration, starting with excerpts from Peter Quinn’s “Banished Children of Eve” and Terry Golway’s soon-to-be-published “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics” by author Honor Molloy and New York Times reporter Dan Barry, respectively. Both highlight Hughes’ role in the divided immigrant city of New York and his voice for toleration in a society plagued by anti-immigrant bigotry.
Musician and folklorist Mick Moloney will follow by performing a selection of popular and political songs such as “No Irish Need Apply.” The evening finishes with Quinn and Golway sitting down with Museum Trustee Jim Quinn for a discussion about Hughes and his times.
Sunday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the City of New York, 1220 5th Ave. at 103rd St. Museum members: Free. Students and seniors: $12. General public: 16. Online sales for the event are closed. Call 917-365-3422 to make reservations.