There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.
After a brutal winter of hawk winds and icy snow, Chicagoans welcome the warmer air that rides along March gusts. It’s a promise of spring. A reminder that the bleak, gray earth will be green again. It’s a call to shed our winter fur and celebrate life in all its joy and misery.
And the Irish in Chicago know how to celebrate. Sure, there are Irish Diasporas all over America, but there’s something unique about Chicago Irish. Chicago winters make us tough, but our Midwestern roots keep us grounded. We stay humble when the chilled winds change, knowing another cold burst is just around the corner—a reminder that life is unpredictable and brutal.
It’s our Irish blood that tends the fire in our hearts. Traditional music—emotional ballads lamenting war and hardship, grab hold of our souls and wring out our pain. If you’re stuffing down your own feelings, just listen to Luke Kelly and you’ll be sobbing on the floor in no time. The Irish know how to express the deepest agony. And they know how to take that hurt and use it to fiercely rebel. Rebel songs will lift you off the floor and onto the table, bursting with energy. And once you’ve channeled your energy into fighting oppression, you’ll be ready to throw your arm around a friend and sing a celebratory song over a pint.
But every song and poem and artwork has a slight undertone of melancholy. Because you can’t feel joy without knowing sorrow. And all joy is tinged in sadness, a nostalgic feeling that this joy won’t last. Soon enough, the hawk winds will be back. But after that, spring returns again. Chicagoans and the Irish are familiar with life’s uncertainties.
So when you hear the fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán drift along a Chicago March wind, listen for the Irish melody of longing. It’s the song of nostalgia for simpler times. It’s the tune of wistful hope for an auspicious future.
It’s St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.