Strange things happen on March 17. Beer turns green. People start talking like the Lucky Charms leprechaun. Corned beef and cabbage shows up on the menus of local sports bars. Yes, for one day, Northeast Florida residents — regardless of their true ancestry — pretend to be Irish. While many folks couldn’t imagine celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without tossing back some pints of Guinness or shots of Jameson, alcohol isn’t necessarily a requirement. In fact, I’ve come up with 17 ways to get in the spirit — without spirits ... or stewed cabbage.
1. Find a bar with a jukebox and play as many U2 songs as possible until you run out of money — or get hit over the head with a shillelagh.
2. Take your dog—preferably an Irish setter, Irish terrier or Irish wolfhound—to the Jacksonville Landing for St. “Paw”ty’s Yappy Hour.
3. Hop aboard the Rally Bus and head to the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Savannah. It picks up somewhere on Dunn Avenue before 6 a.m. and will get you home 13 hours later ... if you're lucky.
4. Enjoy a “smooth and creamy” mint-flavored Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s — but only for a limited time! (I’m still waiting for the ultra-limited time McRib Shake.)
8. Watch the green fireworks over the St. Johns River at the Northbank and Southbank.
9. Stock up on Jaguars St. Patrick's Day gear, like ball caps, T-shirts, pajama pants and boxer shorts. (Bonus: If the NFL decides to extend the season to March 17—or the team moves to Dublin—you're ahead of the game.)
10 Attempt to join or even find
the Irish American Club of Jacksonville
11. Make a leprechaun appear at your door by shoving a roll of Charmin down the toilet (or "jax," as they call it in the motherland), then calling Leprechaun Plumbing.
12. Buy a snake. Though naturalists and historians agree that snakes didn't exist in Ireland in 400 AD, taking in a scaly, slithering creature would be fitting since St. Patrick banished them from Ireland, according to legend.
13. Browse around the House of Ireland gift shop in St. Augustine known for its jewelry, Celtic crosses, flags, tea and family heritage plaques. (I can only hope their selection of "Irish fragrances" doesn't include Eau du Rotting Potatoes or Whiskey Puke Parfum.)
14. Make everyone Irish by adding "O'" or "Mc" to their surname, for example, Nikolai McVitti, E. Denise O'Lee or Maurice McJones-O'Drew.
15. Turn a body of water green. Even if the St. Johns Riverkeeper allowed the city to pour food dye into the river to turn it green, it's highly unlikely it would look any different than the murky brown it is every day. Might as well make your own in your bathtub.
16. Spend some quiet time of reflection at St. Patrick Catholic Church on the Northside (especially if you ignored the previous 15 suggestions and went drinking anyway).
17. This one would have been: Check out the Hooters Green Bikini Contest. Unfortunately, there is no contest this year, so no “erin go bra.”