Counting Out The Green On St. Patrick’s Day

Irish Americans outnumber the Irish of Ireland by quite a lot. There are 4.7 million people in Ireland and about 33 million Americans who claim Irish descent. It should come as no surprise, then, that the celebration of the quintessentially Irish holiday — St. Patrick’s Day — tends to run bigger, wilder and more raucous on this side of the pond. After all, here in Boston, our local Irish population is eight times the size of the motherland’s, and Americans of every ethnic background get their green on one day a year.


St. Patrick’s Day Is the Drunkest Day of the Year

But not when it comes to how much people spend getting to that state.

Despite popular opinion, St. Patrick’s Day is not the day that leads in alcohol purchases; it’s actually fourth on that list.   New Year’s, Christmas and the Fourth of July all bring in greater expenditures of money on booze.

That’s because people drink fancier things on those holidays — and usually in concentrated windows of time. People drink champagne on New Year’s, fine wine on Christmas and festive mixed drinks on the 4th, all of which run up the national bar tab. On St. Patrick’s Day, people drink exactly three things: cheap green beer (breakfast), Guinness (lunch) and whiskey (dinner).

For reasons science can’t explain, some people just drink green beer all day — and they do it literally all day — and much of the way through the night.

Unfortunately, that means St. Patrick’s Day has the unenviable title of the day with the most intoxicated drivers on the road. The average St. Patty’s Day driver has a blood alcohol level that doubles the legal limit.

Unenviable because, sadly, automotive fatalities track with that finding.

That’s the dark part…now, let’s cut to the fun.

Like drunken St. Patrick’s Day shopping:


The $233 Million Online Spending Binge   

So, the festivities are over, the green beer has been consumed and you’ve done the right thing and caught an Uber or a Lyft home.

Now what?

Shopping. Lots of it. About 17 percent of revelers, according to Content Square, decide the perfect way to end the night is to make a drunken purchase on the internet. They will mostly be young, and they will mostly be men. (Drunk men outspend drunk women on St. Patrick’s Day by about 38 percent.)

What will they buy?

Clothes, mostly, because the best fashion choices are made with liquid courage. They’ll also grab event tickets, consumer electronics, more alcohol and toys you wouldn’t let your children buy.

Yup, you read that list right — apparently, some of these people made some connections at the bar and are planning a pretty exciting first date.

That $233 million expenditure is just the icing on the cake of a spending onslaught. About 60 percent of Americans are expected to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and the average estimated spend per person is $30 a pop. For those doing the math at home, that clocks in at $4 billion spent on green beer, the obligatory “Kiss me, I’m Irish” shirt and, of course, the Shamrock Shake.

Speaking of which…


The Shamrock Shake

On most days, a vaguely mint green milkshake wouldn’t cause much of a stir. But at McDonald’s, if you release it on St. Patrick’s Day, and if you give it an instantly memorable name like “Shamrock Shake,” people nationwide will lose their collective minds.


Take the following tweet:

“You’re in the @McDonalds drive-thru with your friend Carl.

You say, ‘Ooo! I’m gonna get a Shamrock Shake, you want one too?!’

Carl says, ‘Nah, they’re gross.’

Carl is no longer your friend. Call us and we’ll remove Carl from your car.”

That tweet came care of the official Twitter account of the police force of Dixon, Illinois.

However, Shamrock Shakes have not always been so beloved. The original shake was created in the 1970s and involved lemon-lime sherbet. It did not develop a fanatical following. But in 1983, McDonald’s switched to mint and vanilla (enthusiasts believe they can still taste a dash of lime), and the world lost its mind once a year for the following 35.

Should you drink one?

Well, a small Shamrock Shake has 460 calories, and a large will tip every sugar scale ever invented.

But, real talk: It’s still probably better for you than green beer.

Whatever you drink today — and whatever you’re wearing when you’re doing it — be safe and don’t drive if you’ve been drinking. And remember that you’re going to have to pay for those things you bought.

And explain your choices later.

Erin go Bragh and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!