Parading for St. Patrick
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Parading for St. Patrick


Everyone on campus boasts to their friends at other universities about the holiday in Champaign-Urbana known as Unofficial.Unofficial means a spectrum of things to different students. For some, it’s waking up unusually early, skipping class and mindlessly guzzling all the alcohol in sight. For others, there may be the misfortune of a midday exam and meeting up with friends becomes only a nighttime option.But for some, Unofficial may actually be a true celebration of the real St. Patrick’s Day and a forerunner of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Chicago St. Paddy’s Day Parade has been a tradition of the city of Chicago since 1843. The annual parade is always held on the closest Saturday to the actual day of St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the parade will be on March 15, a little over a week after Unofficial at the University of Illinois. The parade begins at noon, starting the intersection at Balbo and Columbus, ending at Monroe and Columbus. However, the festivities begin much earlier, such as dyeing the Chicago River at 10 a.m.   

The dyeing of the river is one of the most central traditions of the Chicago St. Paddy’s Day Parade, dating back over 50 years. The dye is made from secret formula  that morphs the river into a bright green. Don’t worry, it’s still safe for the environment according to officials who oversee the parade. According to the official website of the Chicago St. Paddy’s Day Parade, the best place to view this as it happens is the east side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. For a few days after the parade, the Chicago River continues to glow green.

The parade remains extremely spirited from year to year, never canceling due to bad weather or severe cold. No, it is not even likely the polar vortex of 2014 can stifle the spirit of the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day rager. In addition, the Chicago Blackhawks’ epic victory in the NHL Stanley Cup championship this past summer, against the tough Boston Bruins, has upped expectations for Chicago pride to overwhelming proportions.  

Chicago is not the only major city that boasts an incredible St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Some of the oldest parades for St. Patrick occur in Boston (since 1737), New York (since 1762) and Philadelphia (since 1771). All of these occur annually, making the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day possibly the largest nationwide drinking festival besides New Year’s eve. Boston’s parade actually dates so far back that it precedes any parade celebrated in Ireland, as the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day was created by Irish-Americans who had immigrated.

Another worldwide trend that is commonly sighted is the spike in popularity of Guinness, the popular Irish-native stout beer. Every year, according to National Geographic’s special issue on St. Patrick’s Day, about 5.5 million pints of Guinness are consumed. Without a doubt, the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day gains in popularity every year and is further solidifying itself as a staple celebration of American culture. Whether you decide to visit a parade in another city or not, I wish a fun and safe Unofficial to all.
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