Breaking Away from the Leprechauns: Alternative Saint Patrick’s Day Topics

Growing up Irish-American, my family has always celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day and it quickly became one of my favorite holidays. When I was 24, I moved to Scotland, UK to get my Master’s degree and quickly found out that Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated very differently in America versus Ireland. Many people from Northern and the Republic of Ireland live in Scotland, including the roommate I lived with in Scotland for 3 years. What I learned from various Irish friends and classmates was that people in Ireland do not put on green or put out gold for leprechauns of March 17th. In fact, they tend to clear out of Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, and let the tourists take over for Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. The biggest event that tends to fall on Saint Patrick’s Day is the last few or final 6 Nations Rugby Championship matches. 6 Nations matches frequently overshadow any excitement of Saint Patrick’s Day for native Irish people. 

So, when I moved back to the States and started working with Middle School students I decided to change the way I celebrate and teach Saint Patrick’s Day. It is still one of my favorite holidays and I always make a big deal about it, but I tend to stay away from pots of gold and leprechauns. The following are alternative topics I focus on with my students:

  1. Rugby – Rugby is a huge sport in Ireland and the 6 Nation Championship (between Ireland, Wales, England, Scotland, France, and Italy) runs from February to March. Therefore, rugby is an interesting topic for students (sports) and also relevant to current Irish culture. Students can read about the championship or a comparison of rugby vs American football and target goals that way. Also, feel free to show them Irish rugby clips on YouTube – Ireland has a fantastic team if I do say so myself (2018’s 6 Nations Grand Slam victory is a good choice). has a lot of materials on rugby as well. 


  1. Irish Slang/Word Differences – Although both Americans and Irish speak English, many words are different between the 2 dialects. Below I have shown how you can use these word variants to work on context clues and vocabulary.

  1. Accents – I also take the time to talk about different accents. I will show a YouTube clip of Irish speakers and have the kids write down or repeat what they heard. It tends to be a fun challenge for a lot of students.


  1. Picture scenes – For articulation, fluency, or describing goals, I use pictures of Irish landscapes. There are a lot of beautiful landforms to use ( Cliff of Moher, Giant’s Causeway, Quay Row in Galway).

Biographies - If you like activities focusing on the life/works of famous people here’s a few good and modern choices: Saoirse Ronan (Actress), Bono (Musician, U2), Michael Fassbender (Actor, Magneto in the newer X-Men series), Niall Horan (Musician, previous One Direction member), Katie McGrath (Actress, Lena Luthor on Supergirl).


Examples for Context Clues/Vocabulary

Colin wanted to play football outside today, but he couldn’t. He doesn’t mind playing in a little rain, but it was bucketing down.

Answer: raining hard


Mark was so bored after staying home all week sick that once he felt better, he texted all of his friends, “what’s the craic?”

Answer: what is going on that is fun


After 2 hours of rugby practice, Conner was knackered.

Answer: exhausted


The tardy bell rang and the boys were still in their last class. The oldest boy yelled, “Come on, we need to leg it to Mr. McConnell’s class!”

Answer: run fast/hurry up


The vase was in tatters after the football knocked it onto the ground.

Answer: broken pieces


Other Irish to American vocabulary for words:

Flatmate - Roommate

Runners - Sneakers

Jumper - Sweater

Stag Do – Bachelor Party

Hen Party – Bachelorette Party

Football - Soccer

Rubbish Bin – Trash Can

Dummy – Pacifier

Pram - Stroller

Till – Cash Register

Crisps – Chips

Chips – French Fries

Candy Floss – Cotton Candy 

Gaff – Nice house

Plaster – Band Aid

Boot – Trunk

Torch – Flashlight


I hope this post gave you some alternative ideas to focus on this Saint Patrick’s Day. Holidays celebrating other cultures are a great chance to broaden the horizons for our students and clients. Rainbows, glittery shamrocks, and leprechaun hats can still be fun decorations, but including current Irish culture and topics that are important to the people in Ireland is so beneficial for our students and clients. 




Author: Jillian Donahue, M.Sc. CCC-CLP

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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