St. Patrick’s Day has still not arrived, but why do I feel like it has been around for a month? The wearin’ of the green seems to have somehow turned into a seasonal event, not just one day.
During the first weekend of March, I attended a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser and party at my old parish in Chicago. Looking through some other community newspapers I noticed there were several St. Patrick’s Day events occurring at other Catholic parishes throughout the Chicago area.
And this past weekend, we had a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Downtown Chicago. The highlight of that parade is witnessing the Chicago River dyed green. It is a big event and it draws a large crowd.
But it does not compare to the South Side Irish Parade that was held this past Sunday. The parade route begins at 103rd and Western Avenue and concludes at 115th and Western. The parade took about one hour and 40 minutes. I took photos of the event for our paper and a couple of other editions. It is a good time and an opportunity to see people you have not seen in a while.
The parade estimate was about 200,000 people. That is quite a huge crowd for a neighborhood event. And to think that this parade drew as many as 400,000 during the days when the event became too large, drawing people from throughout the suburbs and the city’s North Side. Revelers in those days would empty out of bars and into the streets. The partying was getting out of hand and the parade was shut down for a few years.
The parade has gone back to its original concept, which means it is more of a family event. However, there are still many who go into the local bars on Western to tip a few pints. And walking to and coming back from the parade, I noticed people holding parties that spilled out into the streets. But most of all, these neighbors appeared to be having a good time.
I like it the way it is now. You can bring kids to the event if you like. On the other hand, the bars are open for those who want to celebrate by having more than corned beef and cabbage.
It was a little cold at 36 degrees but the sun was shining. That’s an improvement over last year, when a steady drizzle made it difficult to watch the parade. And I can tell you that it was difficult to take photos, too.
But the downtown parade and the South Side Parade are not the only St. Patrick’s Day events. We now have a St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Chicago’s Northwest Side. They don’t seem to draw as many people as downtown or in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves from the news clips I’ve watched.
A St. Patrick’s Day-themed parade called the Irish Fleadh Parade has been held in Oak Forest for a number of years. Tinley Park has hosted a St. Patrick’s Day Parade for years. Countryside also has a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A St. Patrick’s Day Party is also held in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood.
If these parades all have something in common, it’s that they are rarely — if ever — held on St. Patrick’s Day. At one time, the parades were actually held on March 17. But like many of these events, they are now celebrated on the weekends as close to the March 17 date as possible. Consequently, we have been adding more of these St. Patrick Day celebrations beginning in late February.
My Uncle Jack was born in Chicago but grew up in Ireland. He used to laugh when he came back here in regards to how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. First of all, there were no parades or corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. But since the 1950s, immigrants would come over here and take part in our parades. Visitors and local dignitaries arrive here and in New York City and Boston and are impressed with the festive parades.
So, while St. Patrick’s Day was just another day to go to the pub and celebrate, parades are now held in Ireland as well. The Irish may have been amused when they first saw the American creations of St. Patrick’s Day. But most of the Irish like to have a good time, so the parades and I imagine even corned beef have found their way to the Emerald Isle.
After all this celebrating, what is going to actually happen on St. Patrick’s Day? Well, apparently even the Irish have a little pull with the Vatican, or at least with the Chicago Archdiocese. We have been informed by Cardinal Blase Cupich that Catholics will be given special dispensation tomorrow for St. Patrick’s Day.
And that means pass the corned beef, cabbage and carrots. Maybe even have a Guinness or two.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone — whether you celebrate for one day or a month.
Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.