The Irish community has been an important part of Chicago from its earliest days. When Chicago officially became a city in 1837, it was already home to Irish immigrants. As more Irish people poured into the U.S. to find relief from the suffering of the Great Famine in their native land, the Irish community in Chicago rapidly grew.
The strong Irish presence in Chicago means that the celebrations of Ireland’s most prominent patron saint will be especially lively and varied in the city. Although St. Patrick’s Day includes religious observances, most of the festivities are secular and have become popular among people from across cultures.
The dyeing of the Chicago River
The city’s most famous St. Patrick’s Day tradition involves making the Chicago River turn green. It's a sight that draws hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The inspiration to pour green dye into the Chicago River came from a source unrelated to Ireland or St. Patrick’s Day. In an effort to detect the sites of illegal sewage dumping, workers involved in pollution control had been using dyes on the river. The fact that the river could be turned green with a dye was then seen as a lovely possibility for a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
The first year of the tradition was 1962, and the river remained green for a whole week. Since then, the type of dye and the amount used have changed. Now, the color lasts for hours rather than days. But it’s still a striking sight, the waterway becoming a bold green.
St. Patrick’s Day t shirts and hoodies
No matter if you’re watching the dyeing of the river or if you’re just up for a proper pub crawl: Make sure to wear green. Get your Chicago St. Patrick’s Day t shirts or the Chi-rish t shirt for your celebration. For colder weather, be sure to stay warm with a nice St. Patrick’s Day hoodie.
The river isn’t the only part of the city that goes green for St. Patrick’s Day. Various monuments and buildings also adopt the color of the Emerald Isle. In the past, these have included the Wrigley Building, Prudential Plaza, and the Civic Opera House.
St. Patrick’s Day Parades in Chicago
Chicago boasts more than one parade to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day. The main one takes place in the downtown area along Columbus Drive, close to the shores of Lake Michigan. It starts at Balbo Street and heads up to Monroe Drive through Grant Park. For 2019, it’s scheduled for March 16, the same day the river will be dyed green.
On St. Patrick’s Day itself, the South Side Irish Parade and Northwest Side Irish Parade will take place. Another one, the Elmhurst Street St. Patrick’s Day Parade, is set for March 9. Even though these are smaller parades associated with particular neighborhoods, they still draw large crowds and are full of activities.
The parades are a lively showcase of Irish culture. They include floats, step dancers, musicians playing traditional Irish songs, and people dressed in a variety of costumes. They also highlight individuals who enrich the local community. Another way they promote Irish culture is through prizes. The main parade, for instance, has a raffle offering a trip to Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawls in Chicago
In Ireland, pubs were not allowed to open on St. Patrick’s Day, back when it was treated as a purely religious day. Decades ago, these restrictions were lifted, and celebrating at a pub has become a beloved tradition. Various Chicago restaurants and bars contribute to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations by offering drinking packages or a menu with corned beef and cabbage or other Irish dishes.
More than simply visiting a pub, many people go on a pub crawl, hopping from one bar to another to sample Guinness, Irish whiskey, green beer and any other drinks they enjoy. On St. Patrick’s Day and during the days leading up to it, pub crawls are organized in different neighborhoods around Chicago. Two examples are the 2019 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Bar Crawl and a charity pub tour that takes place a week earlier. When signing up for a pub crawl, participants typically enjoy specials on drinks, free food, a shot glass or another drinking souvenir, the chance of winning prizes, and other perks. Make sure to wear your green St. Patrick’s Day Chicago shirts or St. Patrick’s Day hoodie during the crawl.
Festivals and Performances in Chicago
The Irish American Heritage Center is a beautiful landmark in the Mayfair neighborhood of Chicago. As part of its mission to sustain Irish culture in the U.S., it hosts a two-day St. Patrick’s Festival. The attractions include food, drinks, and a variety of dancers, singers, and instrumentalists.
Another venue that promotes Irish culture is Chicago Gaelic Park, which is located in a suburb south of the city. Along with celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day itself, this venue hosts Ireland on Parade, an Irish cultural exhibition that started in 1967 and takes place over the course of 10 days in March.
From late February to early March, there’s an opportunity to attend the Chicago Irish Film Festival, which started in 1999. The timing of the festival makes it a part of the general celebration of Irish culture that permeates the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day.
Whatever you chose to do for St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago this year: Wear your Chi-rish pride with one of our Chicago t shirts.