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 The Twelve Pubs of Christmas

A New Irish Tradition that Isn't Only About Drinking
















Last Christmas my Irish friend Declan shared some of his family’s nontraditional Christmas traditions. This year I invited him to explain a relatively new holiday tradition taking Ireland by storm: The Twelve Pubs of Christmas. Since I wouldn’t make it past pub four, I thought I would turn to an expert for insight. So here’s Declan!

Thanks a mil for inviting me back here again this year, Caity. The Twelve Pubs of Christmas isn’t merely an excuse for mates to get together for a night of pints, but has become popular for office party gatherings, family reunions, and hen parties. So you could be involved in more than one of these events a season. The object is to visit twelve pubs in six hours—spending thirty minutes at each to help pace out the drinking. My mates and I had to implement tougher rules this year since a few wives have threatened to put the ax on our annual outing. So we agreed it was better to slow down the drinking and up the craic. We make our own rules, while some groups adhere to traditional ones. Two common practices are to wear your ugliest Christmas jumper and nobody drives home. If you think you can follow the below rules, why not join us for some craic?
1) Grub Pub. You must eat dinner, not merely a bag of Taytos, and only drink a half-pint. This rule started because last year my mate Conner hadn’t eaten prior to the fun beginning and was ossified by pub four and singing bloody “Jingle Bells” nonstop in Irish. He doesn’t know a lick of Irish. We sent him home in a taxi. His wife was furious.
2) A Spot of Tea Pub. After dinner it’s teatime. Just funning ya. What self-respecting Irishman is going to sit in a pub drinking tea? Do they even be serving tea in a pub? Your drink must be the color of plain tea. A good Jamison will do the trick.
3) Mrs. Brown’s Boys Pub. If you haven’t seen the comedy TV series, you can catch it in reruns or watch their Christmas movie, which itself is becoming a tradition for many. Each person chooses a character’s name, and you must address the person by that name while in the pub. My mate Nick looks like Brendan O’Carroll, so he’s always Mrs. Brown. Yes, Mrs. Brown is played by a man. I’m her sidekick, Winnie. The real trick is, you must speak only in quotes from the show.
4) Baby Guinness Pub. Rather than a small glass of Guinness, this drink looks like a tiny glass of stout. Fill a shot glass with two-thirds coffee liqueur—Tia Maria or Kahlua—and a third Bailey’s Irish cream. The challenge here is that you are only allowed to drink one, as this is time for a bit of a drinking break. It’s difficult because they are quite grand.
5) Hospitality Pub. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. We used to have it that you introduced yourself to someone you knew, acting like you’d never seen the person before in your life. But then Mattie Lynch saw my mum the next day and told her I’d been so smashed the night before I hadn’t even recognized him. Bloody eejit.
6) Flash Mob Pub. Everyone enters the pub one to two minutes apart and are not allowed to acknowledge each other. Once we all have a drink in hand, two mates stand up and start singing “Santa Baby,” and the others join in.
7) Watering Hole Pub. Only drinking water is allowed. This is usually where a few of my mates break the rules. And what is the penalty for breaking the rules? Buy a round at the next pub for those who didn’t break the rules.
8) The Opposite Hand Pub. This is a traditional rule we threw in because we’re traditional blokes. You must drink with the opposite hand than you use to write. Not easy and often results in others drinking more of your pint than you do.
9) Drink Swap. You order a drink and then decide which mate will drink it. Of course, you try to order the fanciest, most embarrassing cocktail a lad wouldn’t be caught dead drinking. I’ve had to drink a Godiva Chocolate Martini and pink champagne. You must have the recipe on standby in case the bartender isn’t familiar with it, and it’s a mandatory tip if he isn’t. Tipping a bartender is not common practice in Ireland.
10) Pay it Forward Pub. You select someone in the pub at random and buy them a drink. Christmas is all about the spirit of giving. If they offer to buy you a drink in return, you must decline and ask that they pass the good deed along to others.
11) Straw Pub. You must drink with a straw. This makes for some hilarious pics and slows down the rate of alcohol consumption.
12) No Rules Pub. This doesn’t mean mass chaos ensues, but rather if you make it to your twelfth pub, it’s time for a Coke and to say cheers to your mates until next year’s Twelve Pubs of Christmas.
Sláinte! Have a safe and happy Christmas!


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The following is a selection of Facebook posts about the many embarrassing, frustrating, and "enlightening" mishaps I've experienced while traveling.

These are fact, not fiction.

Please Remain Seated


After dinner at a busy restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk, I went to stand and the heavy iron chair came with me. I dropped back down in my seat. I felt behind me to discover that the belt loop on my jeans had somehow become wrapped around the chair’s fancy scroll design. I attempted to undo my pants button to loosen the loop but the waistband was pulled too tightly.

The couple next to us flagged down a waitress and requested a scissors. No way was I cutting the loop off my new jeans. However, I was questioning just how well they fit. I scooted the chair forward, covering my lap with the tablecloth. I sucked in the deepest breath possible after a pasta dinner, enabling me to unbutton and partially unzip the jeans, freeing the loop from the chair. Although I was a tad embarrassed about the incident, my coworkers and I laughed the entire way back to the hotel.


Taking a Nosedive in Dublin

I’m a total klutz, like my character Caity.

A few weeks ago, while I was crossing a busy Dublin street, the light turned yellow. A bicyclist zipped toward me, attempting to time the light as it turned green. I leapt onto the sidewalk, my shoe catching on the curb. I fell toward the pavement then steadied myself midair before heading toward the ground once again, all the while propelling forward. My knees hit the concrete and a paper shopping bag flew from my hand before my palms braced my fall. My bag shot down the sidewalk as I yelled out, in what seemed to be slow motion, “My cooooookies!” The bag contained my mom’s favorite Irish cookies.


My friend Laura helped me up as I shook the confusion from my head. Two concerned tourists returned my damaged bag to me. Rather than checking my palms for blood or my pants for tears, I checked my cookies. Seriously? Luckily, I had no broken bones, merely a few broken cookies.

Failing at French

I studied in Paris for a college semester. My penpal from Normandy came down to visit one weekend. When I exited a restroom at the Eiffel Tower an older woman sitting by the door held out a bowl containing a few coins. I’d only encountered a bathroom attendant once or twice in my life, so I wasn’t prepared with change. I smiled apologetically and left.

Feeling bad, and a bit naïve, I asked my friend for change. “You don’t need to pay Madame PeePee,” he said. Unsure I’d heard him correctly, I said, “Madame PeePee?” He nodded, laughing. The woman came barreling out from the bathroom, shaking a fist, giving us a verbal lashing for using the slang nickname. We turned red with embarrassment, apologizing. When the woman yelled at a curious tourist with a camera, we took advantage of the distraction and fled.

That was one French phrase I never repeated and I made sure I carried change the rest of the trip.

Fire! Fire!


My real-life travel mishaps definitely inspire Caity’s character.


I travel frequently for work and I’ve become comfortable dining alone in public. I’ve learned to blend in…most of the time. While perusing a menu in a rural Irish restaurant a centerpiece candle ignited it. I attempted to blow out the flame, causing it to leap out and torch my napkin. After tossing my glass of water on the fires, I smiled reassuringly at the concerned diners. I apologized to my waitress, giving her the damaged menu and my order.


Following dinner, the owner ran after me for two blocks due to a billing error. I joked that I’d thought the additional charge was for the cost of the menu and napkin. Thankfully, I wasn’t too embarrassed to return to the restaurant, since it is still one of my favorite spots in Ireland.