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.
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:
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.
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!
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)
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!!