Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day

Top of the Morning To Ya !

It's St Patrick’s Day which is a big deal here in Chicago, we dye the river green (in contrast of the dark brown it usually is), and as my wife says “Everyone is wee bit Irish on St Patrick’s Day”.
See of all the immigrants that came to Chicago and worked their butts off, the Irish are who gained power and to this day run Chicago.

The south side especially is the heart of the Irish, areas like Bridgeport (around US Cellular Field, home of the White Sox), Canaryville, going far south to Mount Greenwood and of course Beverly are home to the Irish.

I went to an Irish Catholic high school (Brother Rice), and it was a microcosm of the city of Chicago, there were many different ethnic groups, yet the Irish ran the place, the Irish Christian Brothers taught us and with the campus on the end of Mount Greenwood and just outside the lines of Irish suburbs Oak Lawn & Evergreen Park, I got a good feel early on of how things go and how this holiday is no small potatoes.

The crown jewel of St Patrick’s Day on the south side USED to be the south side Irish parade, always held the Sunday before St Patrick’s Day, going south on Western Ave (the heart of Beverly), from about 95th Street to 115th Street and then it overflowed a few blocks as well.

This parade was considered the real St Patrick’s Day parade by southsiders (in contrast to the downtown parade the weekend of St Patrick’s), and for most of its 30 years it was a tradition held high by all the politicians who walked in it and people who went to celebrate Irish culture.
However in its last few years it became a rowdy drunken fest by outsiders who came to drink, trash the area and misrepresent the south side and Irish tradition.

I know this because I grew up about a mile & a half off the parade route and near the end of the parades’ life, we couldn’t head west near the route because of the congestion and debauchery on parade day.

The parade has since been replaced the last two years by a St Patrick's weekend fest of culture (based at the Beverly Arts Center, 111th & Western), that is more family friendly in the day time with a more adult atmosphere in the evening but not as popular as the old parade.

But I know of some other St Patrick's celebrations, the first weekend in March is the Manhattan St Patrick's celebration with a parade (which my wife's family takes part in in Will County), and there is music, food and drinks all weekend.

Also Plainfield & Tinley Park have parades and fests to celebrate St Patrick (I believe the Plainfield fest is the first weekend in March and Tinley Park is the second weekend in March), both are more controlled than the old South Side Irish parade and seem to have really gained popularity in the years since the south side parade has been gone.

But here's some more info about St Patrick, March 17th is actually his death day, he lived back in the 4th Century AD and this day is a holy day of obligation back in Ireland because he was guy who fought for Christianity and taught religion to many and basically kept Christianity going in a time of war and wide spread paganism.

Here’s a prayer he composed, called St Patrick’s Breast Plate:

I bind to myself today The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity: I believe the Trinity in the Unity The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism, The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.
I bind to myself today The virtue of the love of seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendour of fire, The flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of sea, The stability of earth, The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices.

To also celebrate St Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, check out some good Irish Literature (I studied British & Irish Literature as part of my English Degree from DePaul University), my favorite modern (living) author is Shelagh Delaney, check out her short novel “ A Taste Of Honey”, great story you can read in one afternoon and a nice little independent movie that was made as well.

And then there are the two greats of Irish Literature, William Butler Yeats & James Joyce.

William Butler Yeats has such great poems but if you want a great romantic read, check out his letters to Maud Gonne whom he was infatuated with, the writings they had back and forth are as good as any love literature you will find.

Lastly, the great James Joyce best known for his retelling for Ulysses but for a shorter and more powerful read, check out his collection of short stories called Dubliners and the last story is called “The Dead”, and the great filmmaker John Huston made that into his last film, its an excellent dark work, read the book first then check the film, you won’t be disappointed.

Be safe this St Patrick's Day and if you are in the Homewood area on Saint Patrick's evening the Illinois State Police will be doing road checks on Halsted right off of 294, so be careful.

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