March 17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

As you probably know, Saint Patrick’s Day or the Feast of Saint Patrick actually takes place on the anniversary of St. Patrick’s death. Saint Patrick, who lived circa AD 385-461, is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish masses with his clever metaphorical use of the 3-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity, with each leaf representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The three leaves of a shamrock are also said to stand for faith, hope and love. Today, Saint Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics in Ireland.

Jim and I seem never to be far from Ireland spiritually no matter where we end up. Jim attended Notre Dame in Indiana, where alumni think that qualifies them as being “Irish,” although only around 8% of South Bend’s population claimed Irish ancestry in 2015. And for some ten or so years, we lived in Tucson, which was founded – according to some historians – by the red-headed Dublin-born Irishman Hugh (also known as Hugo) O’Conor in 1775.

Hugo O'Conor

Tucson Statue of Hugo O’Conor

Just a few months ago, we moved from Arizona, and now we live sort of near to Chicago, if you count an hour and a half away (in no traffic) as near. As of 2010, Irish-Americans were still counted as the largest ethnic group in Chicago, and second in the U.S. n percentage after New York. So it seems appropriate, this year, to focus on how Chicago celebrates this very popular holiday.

[The U.S. Census reports that, as of 2015, 32.7 million or 10.2% of U.S. residents claimed Irish ancestry. This number was more than seven times the population of Ireland itself (4.6 million).]

The Chicago River is a system of rivers and canals with a combined length of 156 miles running right through downtown Chicago. It links the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley waterways.

Every year since 1962, the city has turned the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day. The dye is spilled from small boats, and gets drawn into the flow of the river.


The formula for the dye is kept secret, and some people get worried about what the city is putting into the river. As Mental Floss reports:

“While the exact formula for the orange powder (yes, it’s orange until it’s mixed with water) is kept top-secret — in 2003 one of the parade organizers told a reporter that revealing the formula would be akin to ‘telling where the leprechaun hides its gold’. . .”

Nevertheless, environmental groups don’t object. A spokesman for the National Resources Defense Council told the Chicago Tribune that the river has bigger problems than one day of dye: “It is a waterway that has all sorts of really big issues that we focus on a lot more than vegetable dye going in on one day.”


You can get more details on how the river is dyed here.

There is of course also a parade. But even if you don’t live in Chicago, there are other ways to celebrate!

Of course, there is green beer. According to CBS Chicago, this is how you make it:

Green Beer

There are a few different routes to go to get that perfect St. Patrick’s Day green. With a lighter, more yellowed colored beer, try using blue food coloring instead of green. The mix of yellow and blue will create a dark emerald green color.

For a lighter more lime green color, stick with the traditional green food coloring. A mix of the two is worth trying to get that perfect shade of green.

How To:

Add 2-3 drops of food coloring in to an empty glass.
Pour beer in to the glass (no stirring required).


But I’m more interested in this recipe for Irish Coffee, offered on the same website. (We had it when in Ireland, and I couldn’t get enough of it! I even got one from room service one evening, much to Jim’s horror. But I placated him soon enough by giving him half!) Even though the recipe sounds simple, in combination the ingredients create magic!

Irish Coffee


1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey

1 tsp brown sugar

6 oz hot coffee

Regular cream or Bailey’s Irish Cream (amount to taste preference)

How To:

Combine whiskey, brown sugar and coffee in a mug. Stir to dissolve. Pour Bailey’s and enjoy!


What to have with it? That’s easy! Green bagels!


Or green Peeps!


Or green-just-about-anything! But don’t count on getting any of this in a downtown Chicago bar unless you enjoy wall-to-wall people and endless waiting!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!



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15 Responses to March 17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. Such interesting info in this St. P’s Day post. The green river is kinda weird to me, but then again, I’m not Irish:)

  2. Beth F says:

    I *love* Irish coffee — would drink it every evening if it didn’t contain all that sugar and cream. Mr. BFR discovered a new-to-us Irish whiskey yesterday, so that’s what we’ll have tonight.

  3. Heather says:

    Aww this post made me smile! I miss the dying of the river and watching the parade on TV every year! Also you have GOT to find green river pop. It’s a Chicago thing that is absolutely delicious.

  4. I did not know that about Tucson..

    It is odd. While I object to green beer, VERY STRONGLY, making a river green makes perfect sense..Maybe because I do not think you should be drinking beer light enough in color to be able to dye. .lol
    not sure about the bagels.

  5. Sandy says:

    Anything green right now makes me feel nauseous (except maybe the Peeps). My stomach is in a fugue state right now. Even the beer is grossing me out. One of these days though, I will celebrate properly.

  6. aartichapati says:

    Were you in Chicago for St. Patty’s? We could have met up!

  7. Green peeps? Eeeewwww…

    I’m making a Chocolate Guinness Cake for our celebration today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

  8. I’m making a Pistachio Bread for St. Patrick’s Day to go with our corned beef, cabbage, champ and bread pudding. Slainte!

  9. bookingmama says:

    I’ll go for the Peeps and Irish coffee if I have to eat something Irish today!

  10. Laurie C says:

    This was all very interesting! I love Irish coffee too, but we don’t celebrate with any green food at our house!

  11. Liviania says:

    I’m not big on Irish coffee – I hate my coffee sweet.

  12. I would like to be in a boat, floating on the green river, with a plate of green donuts, a few steins of green beer, and an Irish Coffee to top it all off!!

  13. litandlife says:

    Okay, I know I’ve been out of it the past few months but I can’t believe I missed that you had moved! What a change. I love that you ordered Irish coffee from room service – that is a serious need for some hot, caffeinated alcohol!

  14. stacybuckeye says:

    Those green bagels look disgusting! I bought these new veggie chips for Gage (first ingredient green peas) and even though he has eaten every other chip I have brought home, he takes one look at the green color and knows something is terribly wrong. He does enjoy feeding them to me however 🙂

  15. Jenners says:

    As long as no one tries to DRINK the river water. And I love how you worked Peeps into this post!

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