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March 17, 2022 3 min read

March 17th - St Patrick’s Day 2022

A lot of people ask me if Irish people do in fact celebrate the holiday famous in America for copious amounts of drinking, and of course in Chicago dyeing the river green. Well I’m here to tell you that we do in fact celebrate, and even sometimes have a few drinks too. St Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s national holiday - it’s our 4th of July and we go hard for Patrick. 

(Photo by Bryan Keane/Cycling Ireland)

Typically my family celebrates by going to mass and then attending our local parade. The Balla parade starts from the church at the top of the town and makes it way down the main street, past the Garda station, past all the pubs, of which there used to be several, and into the main square makes a u-turn and comes back, or at least that’s my memory of the route, there’s only one street in Balla so it really can’t go anywhere else. 

(Photo by Michael Buckley Photography)

The floats feature all the local businesses, many of which dress up for a theme or skit, I’m sure in 2022 there’ll be corona viruses and before the election there was at least a Trump or two. Normally Paddy’s day (never Patty’s) comes in the middle of lent, a virtuous time in Ireland where many people give up one of their vices for 40 days. Elementary school children are almost universally expected to give up sweets and candy of all kinds (at least that’s what my parents told me) but come St. Patrick’s day you can indulge without retribution. It was the best day of the year almost, and the parade participants knew what they were dealing with. Candy is flung by the armful from the floats, kids are clamoring over each other to get the best selections, which obviously have to be consumed that day. I’d say that I more strongly associate the feeling of being overly full from candy on St. Patrick’s Day then on Halloween. 

(Photo by Snowy Mountain)

As an adult things are definitely more focused on having a drink or two and letting loose midweek and mid lent. The pubs are packed and in Dublin it’s more akin to the infamous Chicago south side Irish Parade than my idyllic childhood parade. I’ve been in Temple Bar on Paddy’s Day and even though they restrict the sale of alcohol at off licenses (liquor stores) in the city center on Paddy’s Day, people do in fact plan ahead and make sure they’re well stocked up for the day of celebration. Things get very rowdy indeed, and it’s definitely an experience.

(Photo by Bryan Keane/Cycling Ireland)

I haven’t been home for St. Patrick’s Day since I was in college which is almost 10 years ago now, so sometimes I worry about my view of home becoming distorted or cliche’d and based on some memories of being a child. Having won the national championships again this year - I’ve thought about gracing my local parade (without invitation) by riding in front of it in my resplendent Donkey Label kit. I live 4 blocks from the Irish American Heritage Center in Mayfair, so it wouldn’t be hard to pop over on my bike and just invite myself to be the grand marshall.

It’s a strange time to be a national champ in a foreign country where one day a year everyone goes completely bonkers for your nation. It’s really incredible how much Americans get behind the day and how much our tiny island is celebrated so fully in a huge country like the USA. Every person in Chicago has Irish family on March 17th. I always think that people who see me ride by in my kit in the weeks leading up to the day must just think I’m just another really big fan of Ireland like they are, or have a grandparent or great grand parent who’s Irish. They also must think I’m the most committed person to Irish heritage in the neighborhood - because I keep wearing the kit on March 18th, and 19th oh and 20th too.

(Photo by Michael Buckley Photography)

Happy Paddy’s Day!


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