12 pubs of Christmas rules & tips: everything you need to know

It’s Christmas time and you’re heading on a pub crawl. Here’s everything you need to know for the 12 pubs of Christmas rules.

Over the past decade or so, the 12 pubs, an activity aligned with debauchery and frivolous behaviour, has become synonymous with the festive season. The 12 pubs of Christmas, or sometimes simply called 12 pubs, is the name of an annual drinking game where groups of friends gather together, don silly Christmas garb, and venture on routes around cities or towns in Ireland, stopping at (and drinking at) 12 pubs along the way.

Almost a tradition at this stage, there are a series of rules (some standard and some just plain ridiculous) on how to conduct yourself when taking part in 12 pubs. We’ll outline these 12 pubs rules, and even throw in some tips for good measure!

Ireland Before You Die’s top facts about the 12 pubs of Christmas

  • It is believed that the famous tradition of the 12 pubs of Christmas originated in Ireland (unsurprisingly!). It has, however, spread to other parts of the world, such as the UK, USA and Australia. 
  • 12 pubs of Christmas operates so that those involved must follow a set of rules and challenges at every pub they head to. Christmas jumpers and singing are essential. 
  • Some groups also consume a designated drink at every location, which adds up to a total of 12 different drinks by the end of the night. 
  • Groups involve usually plan a route in advance, often heading to the city centre or a different town and visiting 12 different pubs in a row. 
  • 12 pubs of Christmas is done in groups, with friends, family or, perhaps most popular, is with work colleagues. This creates memories for the group that will last. 

Basic 12 pubs rules

1. Christmas jumpers are essential. The more outrageous and/or embarrassing, the better.
2. Other Christmas related paraphernalia is encouraged. Think Santa hats, sleigh bells, twinkle lights, tinsel, etc.
3. One drink (usually a pint) must be consumed in each pub or bar.
4. One “rule” will be imposed per bar. Groups need to decide these “rules” in advance. Tip: write them down on your phone for ease of reference (it’s pretty safe to say that once you are five pubs down, your memory won’t be the sharpest!)

READ MORE: To kickstart your ideas, check out our article on the top 10 most famous pubs and bars in Ireland

Although there are more 12 pubs of Christmas rules than we could possibly list, we’re going to outline the most common. All you have to do is choose the 12 pubs rules you feel will make your night the most amusing!

Common 12 pubs rules

We have a list of the common 12 pubs rules you can add to spice up your night.
Credit: Discovering Cork

1. Accents – Simply put, every member of your group has to speak in a different foreign accent.
2. Partners – In this pub, you must pick a mate (sometimes you even have to link arms for the entirety of that pub visit). You can only drink your beverage by being fed it by your chosen mate. This is simpler than it sounds, especially in a crowded bar with too many jars in you!
3. No swearing – Sounds easy? Think again.
4. No pointing – This is really hard. Just take our word for it.
5. No talking – This is difficult for sure, but mainly just looks weird as hell, which then makes the whole situation awkwardly funny, and in turn, harder to not talk.

Having a good time is one of the top 12 pubs rules you need to stick to.

6. No first names – Strangely so, it’s very hard not to call your mates by their first names, seeing as it’s their name and all.
7. Speak in song – Add some lyrics to your night. Once drunk, this will be highly amusing.
8. No talking to the bartender – This will really piss off the bartender, but it’s kind of funny, nonetheless.
9. No toilet breaks – This is just cruel.
10. Opposite hands – Drink with your opposite (i.e. lefties drink with your right hand, and vice versa).

12 pubs rules include drinking a pint in each and every pub.

11. Call the barman ‘Guinness‘ – This gets somewhat confusing. For example, “Can I get a Coors, Guinness”. This may also piss the bartender off.
12. No phones – This shouldn’t be too hard if you’re genuinely having the craic with your mates.
13. Hold your drink – Easier than it sounds, you cannot let your drink touch any surface for the entirety of the pub, or until you have finished your drink.
14. Swap shoes – We’re not entirely sure why this rule is a rule, but it’s a popular one, no doubt.
15. Hug a stranger – This is pretty straightforward, hug a stranger before time is up in that pub!

RELATED: If Dublin is your choice of 12 pubs, you might want to go to one of these 10 best places for Christmas dinner in Dublin first

Rule breakers

If someone breaks the 12 pubs rules then they must perform a forfeit.

If someone breaks one of the rules, either intentionally or unintentionally, there are a known list of penalties ranging from harsh to fair. Here are some standard picks;

1. Do a shot
2. Buy the person who spotted you breaking the rule their next drink
3. Buy a drink and complete the pub as per the rule

Our top tips

12 pubs rules incorporate eating a meal to lessen the affect of your pints.

1. Although it can be seen as “weak” to include a water rule, it’s really the only way to go. 12 pints back-to-back will leave you legless and not remembering this epic night. We suggest you throw in one of these two rules:

a. Drink a glass of water in every pub
b. Drink a pint of water (alongside your alcoholic beverage) in every third pub

2. Eat a large, stodgy, carbohydrate-based meal before your start. This will not only give you longevity on the pints but will also slow down your descent into absolute drunkenness. Consider these two rules:

a. A food run after X amount of pubs
b. The dinner pub – This is where you have to have dinner and a pint/drink in said pub.

And lastly, remember: always leave with an Irish goodbye!

“12 pubs” can be known to get a little loud and bars and pubs can often turn away large groups of participants. Our tip: break into smaller groups as opposed to entering all at once. You’ve a better chance of being served!

There you have it, our top 12 pubs of Christmas rules. But one final point, enjoy your night and Merry Christmas!

Check out our suggested 12 pubs of Christmas routes for Belfast and Cork.

Your questions answered about the 12 pubs of Christmas rules

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Read our article on the 12 pubs of Christmas rules and still have some answers? Then we have you covered. Here, we have outlined the most frequently asked questions about this topic.

What are the rules for the 12 days of Christmas pubs?

Some of the rules of 12 days of Christmas pubs include visiting 12 separate pubs on the one evening and taking part in challenges in each spot.

How to survive 12 pubs of Christmas?

The best thing to do is pace yourself and don’t drink too much at one particular bar! Also have transportation in place for either getting around or getting home.

What is the 12 pubs tradition?

This is the annual Christmas tradition where groups of friends, family or work colleagues come together, wear Christmas attire, and attend 12 different pubs.

What is the forfeit for the 12 pubs?

They can differ, but some include penalties for failing to adhere to challenges, such as more drink or drinking a specially made drink.

NEXT: Check out Ireland Before You Die’s piece on the top 10 reasons why you should do ‘the 12 pubs of Christmas’ in Dublin

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.



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