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OPINION

  • South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2009
South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2009 (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago…)
March 15, 2012|By Katie Killacky, For RedEye

For Chicagoans,St. Patrick's Dayisn't just an excuse to day-drink. I mean, we don't really need an excuse. That's what baby showers and unemployment are for.

But for Irish Chicagoans in particular, the holiday is more than dyeing rivers and beer. My family, for example, treats St. Paddy's with the same sort of reverence as Christmas, with days of planning and festivities leading up to the big event.

When I was little, I would wake up to leprechaun footprints leading to a "pot of gold" in the kitchen. There I found candy and some sort of festive costume, usually consisting of shamrock boxers or green leggings.

My parents would take us to the parades, and our painted faces would race up to the floats for chocolate wrapped like gold coins, Tootsie Rolls hard enough to bounce off my sister's head and taffy nobody wanted to eat except Dad. I remember the days when piling into the car to go to the South Side for the Daleys' party (I'm not name-dropping; different Daleys) was as exciting as a free trial of HBO for the weekend.

As a young adult, I joined Irish organizations and began tracing my family's genealogy after a trip to Ireland. There's a history and a spirit of the holiday that goes beyond whether you're full-blooded. After all, St. Patrick himself wasn't even Irish!

So in keeping with the spirit of the most wonderful time of the year, I invite everyone to enjoy the following.

'Twas the night before St Patrick's Day and all through the house, everyone was stirring a cocktail in their ... glouse. (Just go with it.)

And Mama in her 'kerchief and Dad in his cap, argued over what a " 'kerchief" was for an hour and a hap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, but we were drinking so many Irish car bombs, it didn't even matter.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer. ... It was weird.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Patrick.

"Now, Ryan! Now, Shamus! Now, Collin and Riley! On, Connor! On, Stupid! On, Donald and ... uh ... Mike."

A bundle of beer he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler, just opening his six-pack.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work; he poured shots all around and then punched out a jerk.

As the reindeer started debating about the origin of the Celtic Cross, St. Patrick took the stage and showed them who was boss.

He talked about shamrocks and the history of the trinity, and his joke about the McMurphy twins went on for infinity.

Then he asked for a raise of hands from those who weren't Irish.

"Well, neither am I really." Then he stumbled and mumbled, "Irish-Schmirish."

But I heard him exclaim, before he was about to drive out of sight ... "Can someone give me a lift? I probably shouldn't drive."

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all, and to all a safe, fun, happy night!

KATIE KILLACKY IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.

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