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Celebrate the Luck of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day

Learn more about the history of the holiday, eat well and try out some new hobbies

A man pours beer out of a brew machine
Chef and tavern owner Dennis Littley serves up pints of Guinness and also uses the Irish beer in his stew recipe.
Courtesy Ask Chef Productions

There’s no need to croon a sad Irish ballad this St. Patrick’s Day. The festivities are plentiful and there are lots of ways to celebrate. That’s the luck of the Irish for you.​

“Just because you can’t do what you normally do doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate,” says Mary Moriarty, 68, who lives in Tempe, Arizona. Her mother was born in Ireland’s County Donegal, and her paternal grandparents were from Ireland as well.​

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“For the Irish,” she says, “St. Patrick’s Day is our high holy day.”​

So don some green garb and get ready to observe the foremost patron saint of Ireland.​

Cook some authentic food

Make corned beef and cabbage the star of the menu. The combo may well be the best-known fare served on St. Patrick’s Day, an association that dates back to the 1800s when the Irish immigrated to the United States. They could afford low-cost corned beef, which was easily available and much cheaper than bacon — the closest food to the salted pork they ate back home. Cabbage was inexpensive as well.​

Irish soda bread can be quick and simple to make, as are buttered carrots, a classic side dish.​

It’s tradition for Dennis Littley to whip up the same meal this time every year. While in Killarney for a conference in 2017, he made friends with a tavern owner who shared his recipe for beef stew made with Guinness — a dark, dry stout first sold in 1778 and now popular worldwide.​

Spoken like the executive chef he is, the 69-year-old Littley, from Kissimmee, Florida, advises: “Think of recipes as guidelines and adjust them to include ingredients you enjoy eating and that you have on hand. This will help you find the joy of home cooking.”​

Beef stew and potatoes with Irish Soda Bread
Courtesy Ask Chef Productions

Guinness Beef Stew


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)​
  • 2½ pounds beef chuck cut into 1½- to 2-inch cubes​
  • 3 cloves garlic minced​
  • 2 cups pearl onions or any onion, roughly chopped​
  • 6 ounces bacon sliced in small strips​
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour​
  • 14.9 ounces Guinness beer​
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste​
  • 3 cups beef stock​
  • 1 cup carrots peeled and cut into chunks​
  • 1 cup celery rough cut​
  • 2 cups mushrooms thickly sliced​
  • 3 sprigs thyme​
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)​
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)​
  • 2 cups baby potatoes cut in half (can substitute any type of potato)​


Cut the beef into 1½- to 2-inch chunks. Pat dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy-based wide pot over high heat. Add beef and brown the pieces well on all sides. Remove and place on a plate until needed.​

Lower heat to medium. Add additional oil if needed. Add garlic, onions and mushrooms and cook for 3–4 minutes. Add bacon and continue to cook until the bacon is browned (about 5 minutes). Add carrots and celery and continue to cook for 3–5 minutes.​



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Add flour to the pan and mix in well. Allow the mixture to cook for 2–3 minutes. Add Guinness to deglaze the pan, then add beef stock and tomato paste. Mix well.​

Add the browned beef (including any juices) and potatoes. Cover and lower heat so mixture is bubbling gently. Let the stew cook covered for 2 hours. After 2 hours the beef should be pretty tender. Remove lid and let the stew continue to simmer for an additional 1–2 hours. The sauce will have reduced and will be flavorful.​

Skim off any surface fat. Adjust seasonings to taste with sea salt and pepper. Remove thyme and serve.​

A line of woman dance during a St. Patrick's Day Parade
Pacific Press/Getty Images

Try Irish step dancing

Free and paid lessons are easy to come by online. You can check out hour-long lessons from a professional freelance dancer living in Galway, Ireland. Or learn a proper stance, skips, hop backs and more.​

If you’re in the mood for a celebratory cocktail, try an Irish Mudslide topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Serve for dessert and kill two birds with one stone. Sláinte! (Cheers!)​

Or start your day by sneaking some greens into your breakfast smoothie, says Ginger Hultin, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Seattle.​

In fact, according to Hultin, author of the cookbook Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep, there are lots of ways to give foods a green twist for St. Patrick’s Day without using green food dye.​

“Get creative with spinach, kale, peppers, wheatgrass, green herbs like parsley and cilantro, green tea and matcha powder, and even natural powders like spirulina or chlorella for that beautiful emerald color,” she says.​

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Learn more about St. Patrick

Want to know more about St. Patrick? Take a look at HISTORY, which features information about the man who wasn’t actually Irish and was never canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church. ​

Jennifer Paxton, a clinical associate professor in the history department at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., has lectured on St. Patrick and says he remains an intriguing historical figure. ​

“Who wouldn’t be inspired by someone who campaigned against the slave trade, faced down powerful kings, and battled the medieval equivalent of fake news on his way to sainthood?” she asks.​

​No wonder people revere him.​

"The myth is amazing as well,” Paxton continues. “The Irish turned St. Patrick into a sort of saintly superhero who could defeat druids in magical duels and drive the snakes out of Ireland, creating a marvelous mixture of Christian theology and native Irish mythology.”​​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 11, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information.