St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago

the river runs green!

the river runs green!

I tend to skip the mid-west whenever I go to North America, favouring the west and east coasts over the middle of nowhere. After the worst winter in history, I had yet another reason to avoid going to the frigid middle states, but my favourite Canadienne lives in Minneapolis and we were long overdue for a visit. We started planning an elaborate trip to Chicago, since I was visiting over St. Patricks day weekend, and the trip grew from us two, to 5 friends, to a group of 11 that all wanted to drink green beer and see one of the biggest Irish parties held outside of Ireland.

jumping at the "bean"

jumping at the “bean”

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snowy Minneapolis

We stayed in some executive suite at the Hilton, which was worth every penny of the thousand dollars-plus we spent on it after my couch-surfing streak all over Africa. It was cold and snowy, but trading that for the mosquitoes and always being too hot was also a welcomed change. We had hot breakfast and a hottub to warm ourselves up every day, and the sun still peeked through on St. Patrick’s day to brighten up the parade and the green river Chicago (it was really, really, unnaturally green!). I was also a good tourist and visited the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower, Cloud gate (which everyone knows only as the Bean I learned), and the Chicago Arts Institute.

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Me and Clio with an Irish elf lady

Google maps says Minneapolis to Chicago is a 6.5 hour drive, but it took 9 hours, and we played trivia the whole way in and out so I feel a lot smarter after this weekend. I learned all sorts of random facts about American and French history (we had a frenchie with us in the car who knew the answer to every question), and the capital of every American state. I drank green beer, Guinness and Bailey’s to show my patriotism to the Irish. My great-great-great-great-great-great…. grandmother was an Irish princess so I figured even I could claim to be a patriot.

Actual St. Patrick’s day was Monday, March 17, which we celebrated in up-town Minneapolis at an authentic Irish bar called Morrisey’s. We wore green sweaters, green leis, green jewelry and met an actual Irish man who I thought was most deserving of one of those “Kiss me Im Irish” tshirts. Like all of Chicago on Saturday, crowds of people just looked like one sea of green. I kind of started to forget what it was exactly we were celebrating, I just knew that it was green and Irish, but then I went to the cathedral in St. Paul and remembered. There in the church, alongside humongous statues of St. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, stood St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. I had always known he was connected to shamrocks (4 leaf clovers), rainbows and pots of gold, but the myth from reality was never a clear distinction.

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the parade

Apparently St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish, but he was one of Christianity’s  most famous missionaries. He was ordained a priest in Ireland against a pagan/celtic population, after being born somehwere in Britain around 387AD and being taken prisoner by Irish raiders. He died March 17, hence the holiday, and invented the picture of the celtic cross – a flaming sun ontop of the Christian cross. I still don’t know whats historically true or not, but the depiction of a bearded Green leprechaun with jodphur pants, shiny black shoes and gold buckles is the first thing that speaks to me when I think of St. Patricks day. The second thing I think about is Lucky Charms cereal, but that isn’t really relative since that just plays on the green leprechaun and rainbow ideology… but anyway. Everyone agrees St. Patrick’s Day is a great American drinking (non-recognized) holiday, and I’m happy to have been a part of the 3rd biggest celebration possible (number one and two is Boston and Savannah… and maybe Manhattan). Put them on the to-do list for next year 🙂

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