St Patrick's Day. If you are not from Chicago the first thing you're thinking is probably something like this: Irish inspired holiday, leprechauns, a Catholic saint named Patrick, green, people drinking booze. Yes, that's what Chicagoans think too but here's the thing. St Patrick's Day in Chicago is more like an event. An ALL DAY CITY EVENT.
Anyone who has walked or passed downtown Chicago know that the Saturday of or before the actual official holiday (and yes in Chicago we considered it a holiday), millions of Chicagoans, midwesterners, even people from the east coast, west coast and people from all over the world come to Chicago to celebrate this special day.
Originally Saint Patrick's Day was created as a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March to honor Saint Patrick (c. AD 385–461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland. Today in many parts of the world, it's a nice excuse to celebrate the patron saint by drinking, eating and partying with friends and strangers (who become good friends for this day). And no where is this more true than the city of Chicago.
Perhaps it's because Chicago has one of the the largest Irish population outside Dublin, Ireland. We have had Irish-American mayors that governed Chicago for half the century. Proud Irish concentrated neighborhoods in Chicago like Bridgeport. And the huge number of Irish bars that dot the corners of this diverse city.
So, now you have an idea why St Patrick's Day is big in Chicago. Now what are the things that make us so BIG in this special day? Well how about at 9AM central time, hundreds of thousands flock to downtown Chicago by the river, its river walk and bridges to see the city dye the river green. After this spectacle, thousands of people head to River North for its massive bar crawls. While revelers partake in this drinking fest that last anywhere from 6-12 hours, millions more head to downtown to see one of the city's two official St Patrick's Day parades (one in downtown and one in a southside neighborhood) which are always a popular affair for Irish decendants and non Irish alike. Millions, yes, millions watch the two parades live. How's that to start the morning and afternoon?
We're only in the afternoon and by this time every Chicago neighborhood has St Patrick's Day festivities or parties. The big ones are bar crawls. Meet People Chicago has the city's only city-wide St Patrick's Day bar crawls called The Five Saints Bar Crawl. Why five Saints? Well, we called that because we started doing five massive St Patrick's Day bar crawls in five of Chicago's most popular neighborhoods: River North, Wicker Park, Division Street, Logan Square and Lincoln Park. Over 5,000 people participate in our bar crawls which start as early as 8AM and end about 9PM. Now that's an all day affair!
Besides our massive bar crawls and other St Patrick's Day parties, like St Patrick's Day Rooftop Party, other bars and restaurants have their own St Patrick's Day events. Expect huge and festive brunches on Sunday. If the venues take reservations, this is the day to take it otherwise expect long lines.
St Patrick's Day only comes once a year. So, if you are visiting Chicago around March 17th, cross out one of your check boxes by participating in one of the activities described above. Whether it's having a St Patrick's Day (the day after on Sunday) brunch with friends, partake in huge bar crawls, or just see the river dye green and watch the fun St Patrick's Day parades, you'll get to say you have experience what St Patrick's Day in Chicago is like.