My first experience of a St. Patrick’s Day parade in America was at Chicago in 2002/3. I was studying at the University of Notre Dame – home to the spirit of the ‘Fighting Irish’. A bunch of us decided to make a trip to Chicago to see the river turning green. The weather was crispy, the feeling electric and we gathered with hundreds others decked in various shades of green at various points along the river. A large ship traveled the length of the river mixing ~40 pounds of environmentally safe dye into the water. Starting at around 9.00 AM, within a magical 45 minutes or so, suddenly the entire 156 miles of the river was covered by a cloak of bright green.
Having just come to America, this was the first time I was seeing crowds of such large proportions gathered to celebrate something together. It was reminiscent for me of Holi, a festival of colors played in India, that happens around the same time of the year. Today, I also understand it to be a celebration of Irish-American culture, of ordinary people ‘making it’ by dint of sheer hard work and perseverance, of a ‘never-say-die’ attitude, of the spirit of the ‘Fighting Irish’.
One of these days, I would love to see the Chicago river turning green again. But since I am a few thousand miles away, this time I decided to run a local half marathon celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Here’s my ‘Go Green’ medal dedicated to the ‘Fighting Irish’ spirit.