Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saint Patrick's Day: When the Chicago River Flows Green; and More

Today's Saint Patrick's Day: when the Chicago River flows green, folks drink green beer, and stores have ample supplies of green stuff on the shelves. That's how it works in America, anyway.

The Chicago River Turns Green

The Chicago River has turned green for St. Patrick's Day each year for the last half-century. There's a bit of a story behind that:
"Chicago River Turns Green for St. Patrick's Day 2012: Best Places to View." (March 17, 2012)

"On Saturday, March 17, 2012, Chicago will continue its 50-year-tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day. Many have tried to copy Chicago, but none have managed to perfect the brilliant shades of emerald green that makes the river the centerpiece of Chicago's celebrations...."

"...It all started back in 1961 when Stephen Bailey, Business Manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union #110, was discussing plans with a colleague for the 1962 St. Patrick's Day Parade. During the meeting, Bailey was approached by a plumber who was wearing coveralls that were originally white but had been stained the perfect shade of Irish green by the dye used to detect leaks in the Chicago River. Immediately, Bailey asked why couldn't this dye be used to turn the river green for St. Patrick's Day. After some testing and research...the tradition was born...."

"...In 1966, when environmentalists threatened to end the tradition by claiming that the oil-based dye was ruining the river, the committee went back to the drawing board. After experimenting with a number of vegetable dyes, they put together today's formula that uses 40lbs. of environmentally-friendly dye to keep the river green for four or five hours...."

Green Beer, Irish Coffee, and Opinions

I've encountered the strongly-voiced opinion that Irish coffee is the ruination of three perfectly good drinks: and that green beer was probably invented by the Sassenach. "Sassenach?" I've got roots in Ireland, Scotland, and Norway: and some of my Irish forebears may have been English Catholics who were allowed to flee the country. That's another topic.

I've never tasted green beer, and probably never will. If you feel that your life won't be complete unless you sample a fine traditional drink with an odd color, you can make your own:

Beer, Bingo, and Balance

If you're wondering why I'm not recoiling in horror from Demon Rum - or beer, in this case: It's because I've studied my faith.

There's a rule about avoiding every kind of excess, including alcohol. And food. Among other things. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2290) But the Church doesn't insist that I stop eating. Or drinking. It's the excess part that's important.

As it is, my alcohol consumption is practically nil: but that's my choice. I used to have a drinking problem, and decided to stop (almost) entirely. Again, that's my choice. I don't expect the 7,000,000,000 or so folks I share the planet with to be just like me. Not even the 1,100,000,000 or so Catholics. Then there's why the Church doesn't forbid Bingo.1 More topics.

Will the Real Saint Patrick Please Stand Up

For all I know, reruns of "To Tell the Truth" are still around somewhere. I used to enjoy watching the game show, and trying to guess which of the three folks wasn't an imposter. When the announcer said "will the real [name] please stand up," sometimes I was right, sometimes not. Either way, it was fun. Yet more topics.

There are quite a few "Saint Patricks" running around in American folklore. There's the dude who drove the snakes out of Ireland - a colorful tale, but bogus. As I recall, by Saint Patrick's time there weren't any snakes there to be driven.

There's a pretty good biography of the real Saint Patrick online:Somebody called it a "lengthy biographical article on the Apostle of Ireland." And so it is: also extensive, considerable, and voluminous. The Catholic Encyclopedia article also has translations into my language of a few of Saint Patrick's words.

These days, English is spoken in Ireland - but 16 centuries back, when Patrick was around, anything resembling one of the dialects of today's English was a long, long, way into the future. Yet again more topics.

A Blessing For Munster

We're told that Saint Patrick stood on the hills of Tipperary when he said these words of blessing for Munster:
"A blessing on the Munster people -
Men, youths, and women;
A blessing on the land
That yields them fruit.

"A blessing on every treasure
That shall be produced on their plains,
Without any one being in want of help,
God's blessing be on Munster.

"A blessing on their peaks,
On their bare flagstones,
A blessing on their glens,
A blessing on their ridges.

"Like the sand of the sea under ships,
Be the number in their hearths;
On slopes, on plains,
On mountains, on hills, a blessing.
(Saint Patrick, via The Catholic Encyclopedia)
There's more. It seems like there's always more. But that's as good a place as any to stop.

Somewhat-related posts:
1 You may run into the occasional Catholic who's convinced that Bingo is satanic, and that playing cards are evil. That's not what the Church says, though:
"Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for his needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement. Unfair wagers and cheating at games constitute grave matter, unless the damage inflicted is so slight that the one who suffers it cannot reasonably consider it significant."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2413)
I don't play Bingo myself, but I call numbers for Bingo games at the Knights of Columbus booth at the Stearns County Fair - for two hours, each year. It's one of our major fundraisers. We don't spend the proceeds on beer, by the way: the money goes to charity.

1 comment:

Brigid said...

Odd use of a colon: "by Saint Patrick's time: there weren't any"

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