Drinkers raise bar with Christmas crawl


If you walk into your local pub and notice groups of people in naff jumpers and Santa hats, chances are some are taking part in the “12 pubs of Christmas”. The pub crawl involves participants having a drink in 12 different pubs in one day.

Popular routes in Dublin include the Baggot Mile, which takes in 12 pubs on Baggot Street, or from Dame Street up to Camden Street. The crawl has grown in popularity since 2008, with people participating in many towns in Ireland.

A list of pubs is drawn up to make a route that may end in a nightclub. Participants usually have one drink in every pub before moving to the next. Some treat it like a cruel drinking game with strict rules such as left-handed drinking or being forced to do press-ups if any rules are broken. However, for many it’s just a chance to meet up with friends and have fun.

‘12 drinks is a problem’

A campaigner against alcohol abuse has warned that consuming so many drinks in one sitting is hazardous. Joe Barry, professor of population health medicine at Trinity College, said: “We are trying to encourage people to drink to EU averages. Drinking 12 drinks in one session is a problem.”

He warned that people who drink over recommended limits are vulnerable to being attacked and that it can have serious health consequences.

“If you have borderline liver failure and take part in something like this, it will push you over the edge. After that much alcohol, people are likely to drink-drive or get into a car, or more likely to take a risk by getting into a car driven by someone who has drink in their system.”

However, many participants in the pub crawl limit the pace of their drinking and the amount of alcohol they take in.

Sisters Naomi and Ciara Goff from Wexford and their friends were beginning their pub crawl in The Bank pub on Dublin’s Dame Street.

“We did it last year and lasted the 12 pubs. When we do it, we take 45 minutes to an hour in every pub, so it’s paced out nicely. You start at 2pm and finish at 10 or 11pm. It’s nice to go out with the work crowd and do something fun,” said Ciara.

Orla Gavin joined her husband, Niall, and some friends at the Dame Tavern for their pub crawl. “I made it through last year by drinking bottles. Around pub six we may stop off for food,” said Niall.

Kevin Kelly from Clare said he was sticking to bottles of beer and avoiding spirits. The group have several rules for their “12 pubs” crawl, which include no talking about sport or work, and no cursing. “By the last two pubs the rules go out the window. If you make it that far you’re off the hook.”

Another group of 20 friends had just begun their pub crawl in the Mercantile. Most of them said they do it every year and usually eat something after pub six to pace themselves.

Mary Donnelly from Clare said it was her third time doing the 12 pubs. “I stick to long-neck bottles as I couldn’t handle pints all night,” she said.

The view from behind the bar

Colin McCusker, manager at The Bank, said the 12 pubs trend had grown gradually in the past two or three years. “The first year was kind of a gimmick but then every year the Christmas sweaters get more creative and people try to outdo each other. Every year it gets bigger and better.

“It depends on what level you get the people on the 12 pubs at. If you get them when it’s early they’re fine but later on can be tricky. We like to see them early in the afternoon as we know they will be moving on to another pub,” he said. “Generally people are quite civilised.”

But how were the participants feeling the morning after the night before? Naomi Goff said she felt “grand” and spent the day shopping. “We started off with 12 people and ended up with six or seven as people trailed off during the day.”

Orla Gavin recalled it as a fun night. “We all feel fine today . . . For us, it was not about a big drinking session, it was more about the social aspect.”

Jennifer Broderick was feeling a bit tired. “We were all home by 1am as it was a long day so we didn’t bother to go to a club afterwards. For us it’s not so much about the drinking aspect. With so many of us working abroad, it’s nice for us to all meet up at this time of year, wear a silly jumper and have some fun.”

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