St. Patrick’s Day

Article Category: Blog, Holidays and traditions


Typical bar advertisement (note the green beer)

Wondering what St. Patrick’s Day is all about? All over the United States, St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is celebrated with parties at grammar schools, fundraisers, decorations at places of business and people enthusiastically wearing green clothing. The tradition is that if you aren’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, you can be punished with a pinch, but don’t worry. This requirement can be fulfilled with as little as a green scarf or tie.

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day traditions

But St. Patrick’s Day is a particularly big deal in some cities, such as here in Chicago. Chicago has a strong population of descendants of Irish immigrants, so it “goes all out” (that means it does everything possible) for St. Patrick’s Day. You’ll see people with green costumes, green hats and green faces. Some people get their nails done a special St. Patrick’s shade or wear green wigs.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade draws thousands of people and always occurs on a Saturday. (If March 17th doesn’t fall on a Saturday, the parade is held the Saturday before the 17th.) This year the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon on Saturday, March 12th. It will start downtown, south of Grant Park at Balbo and Columbus, and march north along Columbus Drive. You can find more information about the parade and the dyeing of the river here. NOTE: The parade happens no matter the weather. Chicagoans aren’t slowed down by rain, snow or fierce winds (although sometimes we should be).

Dyeing of the river

We do what to the river? Yes, on the same day as the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Chicagoans gather to watch the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers dye the Chicago River green. If you want to witness that, be there at 9:00 a.m. Apparently the best view is from the east side of the bridge at Columbus Drive or upper and lower Wacker Drive between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive. This tradition turns the water a brilliant shade of Irish green, and later that day you can see that same shade in the beer that many bars serve as a St. Patrick’s Day treat. Actually, you don’t have to wait until later to have that beer because many bars open by 9:00 a.m. that day. One way Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day is by drinking, and some people drink from morning, through the afternoon and into the night. They have a beer before the parade, after it and then just keep going! On this day people like to say everyone is Irish, which includes us all in the traditions of parade-watching, dyeing and getting hammered (intoxicated). There are Chicagoans who say St. Patrick’s Day is their favorite holiday of the whole year, even better than Christmas (but St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a federal day off and businesses keep their usual hours on March 17th).

Be careful

So if you’re new to the U.S. and especially if you live in Chicago, think about joining in the celebration. The parade and dye-ing of the river are open to all for free and they’re as Chicago as anything else you can name. If you go out, have a great time! I’ll be home avoiding the less-than-pleasant side effects of all that drinking.

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