Closer Look

Read me, I’m Irish

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Bagpipes, shamrocks and lots (and lots) of beer – yes, St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone in the world is Irish is this Monday, March 17.

As an international exchange student from Ireland I have been finding out what the city has to offer for this upcoming weekend. From the stories I have heard I think I picked the perfect place to study as there seems to be no better place to be in the U.S. than Chicago this weekend. The city is well-known for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and how it’s influenced by its Irish population. I am excited to temporarily add to that Irish population this year and to experience the holiday in my second home.

Back in Ireland St. Patrick’s Day is still primarily a religious festival. St Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland, and in my county of Armagh, he is especially famous for being our first-ever Bishop. Although he was originally brought to Ireland as a slave from Great Britain, he decided to later return as a Christian missionary. He is notoriously remembered for chasing all the snakes out of Ireland, a legged closely upheld in the Irish culture.

On the holy day, children are off school which makes it perfect for the whole family to celebrate Mass in the morning. In the afternoon each town usually has its own parade, s full of school kids and church groups showing off their music and talents. In the evening families are likely to head down together to the local GAA (Irish football) club to celebrate with a few Guinness beers in a friendly atmosphere. This is the one time of year when it is acceptable for kids to be running around a pub in the early hours of the morning. There are men in kilts, carrying bagpipes and dancing along with dressed up Irish dancers to the traditional tunes. Every pub is packed full and all the green flags are flying high in the air. One special tradition in Ireland is to have Mass said completely in Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. For the older generations, this is a great reminder of Irish culture. However, for the younger generations who are only accustomed to knowing the Our Father in Irish, Irish Mass can be a tough task.

Contrary to popular belief, the whole island of Ireland does not flock to Dublin every year to watch the biggest parade in the country that is televised. This parade is mainly attended by Dubliners and tourists who have decided to celebrate in the city. The local town parades are likely the only ones that every Irish kid will see each year. However, if you are lucky enough, your parents may bring you to see the official Dublin parade at least once throughout your childhood. But I’m still waiting for the year when my parents will consider me good enough to make the trip. And at 21, I’m giving up hope. The truth is that many Irish people think Dublin is too busy on the holiday and prefer to sit in the comfort of their own home to watch the parade on TV, similar to the events that happen in the city of Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day.

As I asked students about what actually happens in Chicago, I quickly realized that the holiday is more than a one-day celebration. The Windy City turns the celebration into a full weekend of activities involving all things Irish. Chicagoans were quick to show their pride when describing what their city has to offer, telling me all about the numerous events to check out. The stories of the parade downtown, wild pub crawls and the abundance of family-friendly festivities prove that Chicago has something for everyone.

Aritza Perez, a junior international business major, stated that the best part of being in the city is the downtown parade, because it brings the whole city together. Perez, who comes from a Mexican background, sees the parade as a time to learn about another nation’s culture.

The parade starts at noon this Saturday at Balbo Ave. and Columbus Dr. within Grant Park and continues down Monroe. It lasts for roughly three hours, but get there early to ensure a good view.

Alexander Stoll, a 22-year-old finance major originally from San Diego, said the sea of green that overtakes the city is his favorite Chicago St. Patrick’s Day memory.

“I love how even when it’s cold outside or there is still some snow the city is [full of] color. It’s always a happy time that feels like spring,” Stoll said.

And, of course, there cannot be an article about St. Patrick’s Day celebrations without mentioning the Chicago River being dyed green. Allie Jameson, a senior international business major, said this is the best part about the weekend’s festivities.

“It is an iconic part of the Chicago festival,” Jameson said. “Every kid loves to get up early and get a great spot to see the river changing color. Even as a college student I still love to go every year.”

The River is dyed at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 15 just before the downtown parade. The Chicago Riverwalk, between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive, is one of the most ideal locations for viewing the green river.

Many local bars offer special deals for the holiday, but do your research early – tickets may be required for entry. One bar, The Irish Oak in the Lakeview neighborhood off the Addison stop on the Red line prides itself on its tradition to start the drinking as early as possible, offering a deal that incorporates both breakfast and drinks.

Whether it’s a backyard cookout on campus or a trip downtown to see the city-centered attractions, top of the mornin’ to you Loyolans, and have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.


by Kirsty Keegan

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