I see you, military spouse who is not drinking today. You groan at the thought of yet another holiday that revolves around beer and drunkenness. I feel your pain, because I have been there before.
As a mom of four kids, I have spent a lot of time pregnant or nursing. For years I have been the sober one at the party and the designated driver. As the tiny little sober voice in a crowd of drunken partiers, I am here to tell you: You are not alone. There are many reasons someone would choose not to drink today. Maybe it’s a temporary situation because you are pregnant or on medication. On the other hand, it could be a permanent lifestyle choice. Recovering alcoholics will spend the rest of their life turning down alcohol at parties. Whatever the reasons, we need to recognize that not everyone drinks beer.
Where does that leave the sober milspouse on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day? It doesn’t mean you have to stay home and avoid the fun. It just means you have to get a little more creative.
Many people exclaim that the Irish are known for their drinking, and the only proper way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is with copious amount of beer. As someone who is 7/8 Irish, I respectfully disagree. Here are some of the other things the Irish are famous for, which can be just as much fun:
How to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without drinking
Music: If you’ve never heard an Irish band, you are missing out. I had one at my wedding and it was a great time. The classic foot-stomping, hand-clapping reels and jigs are called traditional music, or trad music. You can find some fun samples with videos here. Find a station on Pandora or see if there are any live performances near you.
Food: The Irish don’t just eat corned beef, haha. Whether it is lamb stew, bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, or fresh-caught salmon, traditional Irish food is delicious and hearty. People gather at pubs for food and music, not just for a pint. If you want to put alcohol like Guinness and Bailey’s to good use, they have excellent flavors for baking. Make a fresh loaf of beer bread or Guinness cupcakes with Bailey’s whipped cream icing. Yum, that’s one way I can actually consume beer! (FYI, when it is cooked, alcohol evaporates, making it safe for children or pregnant women.)
Dancing: Irish step dancing involves jigs, reels, fancy footwork, and beautiful costumes. The story goes that the straight upper body was necessary because pubs were so crowded. Even when packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the Irish couldn’t stop their feet from dancing. If you don’t know the steps, if it still fun to watch. Many dance schools will perform this weekend at parades, festivals, or local churches and schools. If you don’t know where to catch a show, then watch the Riverdance movie on TV. It’s a classic dose of Irish music, dancing, and singing that is sure to lift your spirits.
Pub Crawls: This is a modified, family-friendly version of the sloppy pup crawl tradition. Talk to some neighbors whose houses are near yours and see if they want to do a dinner crawl. The first host will prepare appetizers. Then you move to the next house for salad or entree. Then go to the final house for dessert. Not only does this make it a little easier for each host, but it’s also a great way to get to know your neighbors and make new friends!
Stories and poetry: This is especially true for any Irish who have kissed the Blarney Stone in old Blarney Castle. (I have, and so has my daughter. We both love writing. Hmmm…) You probably can’t catch a plane to the Emerald Isle this weekend, but you can look up some cool Irish folk tales and learn about colorful heroes like the Children of Lir (who were turned into swans), Queen Maeve (who led an army), or Fionn (who ate the salmon of knowledge and fought a dragon).
Being Catholic: After all, the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day started by celebrating a saint. Many Irish go to church or pray the prayer of St. Patrick. Catholic churches host dinners and family-friendly festivals this weekend. Last year, our local church gave away tickets to military families. We got to enjoy food, music, dancing, and crafts for free.
Saving modern literacy: Irish monks are credited with “saving Western civilization” because they copied rare books during the Dark Ages. Thanks to their tireless work, history was preserved and people continued to read and write. They took their illumination work seriously and turned it into art. Have you ever seen the Book of Kells? It’s gorgeous! The original is in Trinity College Library in Dublin. But for our purposes, a Celtic coloring book is a good substitute and a great stress reliever.
Running: Irish runners set a surprising number of world records and Olympic titles in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Celebrate their legacy by signing up for a 5K or 10K race. Wear green, have fun, and run for your own bit of gold at the end of the rainbow. Just… skip the beer tent afterwards.
Luck: Whether it is leprechauns and pots of gold or scraping by as unwanted immigrants in America, the Irish have a knack of finding the opportunity in any situation. Find a Pinterest craft or recipe that reflects the luck of the Irish, and do it with your children. My son’s class had to make leprechaun traps to set around their classroom. The whole family enjoyed looking up different kinds of hunting traps and crafting one together. Our kids also enjoy any kind of treasure hunt, so we sometimes hide clues around the house and see if they can locate the prize!
No matter how you choose to celebrate this holiday, I hope you feel free and proud of your decision. No one should pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. There are plenty of ways to have fun, even when you are stone-cold sober. No matter how outnumbered you feel as the only sober person in the room, you are not alone. I’ll raise my (water) glass to you, military spouse!
Lizann Lightfoot is a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at email@example.com