Getting Chirish

The Irish do get around, don’t they?

Lucky for the rest of the world that they do, because it means we’re all allowed to get extra drunk once a year when they celebrate the day of their patron saint. This is cultural appropriation at its most useful, and the larger the Irish population is in a city, the more frivolous the day will be. Good thing Chicago has a big’un.

St Patrick’s Day means you get started early. For me, the celebrations began by waking up, showering, going down one flight of stairs to my neighbour’s apartment where we were meeting some other people from the building, finding some nice Irish jigs on Spotify, and cracking open a can of Guinness at 08:39. Fun is easy in Chicago.


We prepared ourselves for the day’s activities by rounding up all the hip flasks in the building and filling them with Jamieson, and pouring gin and tonic into Fiji Water bottles. Sure, we’re going to be flouting the open carry laws all day, but we don’t want to rub it in the CPD’s face, do we? Donning the greenest clothes we could find, we set off through Wicker Park to the Blue Line El station.


Now would be as good a time as any to talk about the weather, I suppose: It’s been well below freezing and snowing in this city for the last 3 months, the lake is still half frozen, and if you’d asked me a week ago when I thought I’d next be able to go outside without a jacket and a hat on I’d have picked a a date at least a month from now. By some crazy Irish miracle, though, it suddenly got warm. The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and I’M LEAVING MY JACKET AT HOME TODAY!!!! Just as well, because it’s not green.

The train was also looking greener than normal. This is a good sign – it means we’ve got the right day.


We got off the train at Clark and Lake, and made our way north to the river. Downtown was buzzing, and there was people dressed in green, everywhere, as far as the eye could see. There was people handing out free samples of stuff, and we nabbed some new fruit-flavoured RedBull and some “miracle hangover cure” tablets. These people know their target audience, that’s for sure.

Crossing the river at Dearborn Street, I spotted a gap in the crowd by the railing, and posed for a quick photo. The river is still mostly river-coloured at this point, but you can see some green creeping upstream.

IMG_20150314_104104 (2)

We decide to head to the Trump tower, as the riverbank terraces there are apparently not as crowded, and you still get a great view of the river. I was sceptical about how un-crowded they would be given the amount of people that were milling along the river, but turns out Alex knows best, and it was a sweet spot to stand, watch the boats and paddleboarders on the luminous river and drink some gin Fiji Water. There was even a handy flower bed to put our bags and drinks on.


The river is SO GREEN. I’ve never seen anything like it and I have no idea how they manage to turn so much flowing water SO DAMN GREEN. Well actually I do – they use 45 lbs of secret-formula, powdered, vegetable-based dye and half a dozen small boats to distribute it along the river. But I prefer to think of it as witchcraft.


After all that green-river-based fun we were getting mighty hungry, so we jumped in a cab and headed south a bit (away from the crazy crowds) to a nice bar called the South Loop Club where they do a mean burger and curly fries. It was quieter here than up by the river, but there was still a decent crowd, a great atmosphere and plenty of jolly green people to get chatting to – and we didn’t have to wait 3 hours for a pint.


Loaded with carbs, we headed over to Millennium Park, where the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is happening. There’s a lot going on here before you even reach the parade – dance troupes rehearsing, music playing, and people in strange outfits just hanging out beside some streetcars.


And of course, the whole park is just a sea of green, drunk, happy people.


The parade was reasonably entertaining – with dancers, marching bands, horses and the like, but to be honest I was just happy to be in the sun, with my friends in the crowd, listening to the music and drinking gin. The buzz is real.


Somehow I ended up with a furry green moustache and my day was completed.


Did I mention the weather? Look at that sky! Chicago is the best place in the world when the sun is shining.


Having had our fill of Downtown, we got the train back to our beautiful Humboldt Park neighbourhoood, where the frivolity was still going strong on the mighty Division Street.


The boys bought some cigars while I soaked up some sun, then we headed to the liquor store to stock up on beer because, although it feels like the end of the day, it’s only 3pm (that’s what happens when you start the frivolity at 8 in the morning) and we’re having a party!

Note the small patch of stubborn snow in the picture below:


We started off casual, with some beers in the sunshine on the roof, some topless sunbathing (bras were kept on), some.. er.. amorous moments, and some excellent group selfies (Photo Credit to Amir Bavani):


But by nightfall it was a fully-fledged dance party and the perfect way to round off a perfect day. I always say you can gauge the quality of a party by the size and contents of the lost property pile the next day, and judging by the 2 phones, 2 hats, 3 pairs of sunglasses, the pair of boots and the sweatshirt that was left behind, I’ll say we threw a pretty good one indeed.

Definitely the best St. Patrick’s day of my life – and I spent 4 years in Aberdeen with 5,000 Irish students. So yeah, you should try it one day. #ChicagoWinsAgain

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