When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Boston is tough to beat.
The green, white and orange flags fly high, the drummers beat a steady tune to march to, and people come out to the parade in South Boston in droves, brandishing green apparel and temporary shamrocks tattooed to their cheeks.
And the beer. Of course, we can’t forget the green beer.
St. Patrick’s Day is a landmark holiday for Bostonians. It’s done big here.
But 1,000 miles to the west, another city is trying to stake its claim as the best place in the country for the Irish festivities.
ShamROCK Chicago Council, a group of prominent business owners and representatives from Irish organizations in the Windy City, is trying to establish Chicago as the U.S. headquarters for St. Patrick’s Day.
Launched last week, the group created a petition, hoping to rally enough support behind why Chicago should be dubbed the official St. Patrick’s Day headquarters. If they secure enough votes for their case, the council plans on hand-delivering the petition to the Consul General of Ireland this spring before the big holiday.
For Boston, a city steeped in Irish history and pride, however, this news isn’t easy to swallow.
Dr. Robert Mauro, the director for the Irish Institute at Boston College and the Irish Network Boston, a group dedicated to furthering Irish culture in the Hub, doesn’t think Chicago’s bid will come easy.
”Boston is, of course, the top destination in the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Mauro, maintaining that Boston’s size – 50 square miles, compared to Chicago’s 250 – makes it the ideal city to access all things Irish with ease.
“If someone wants to take in a bit of Irish culture and visit the Burns Library at Boston College for the Yeats collection, grab a packet of Tayto in Brighton, and take in session at Mr. Dooley’s, it is all easily and comfortably done,” he said.
Trekking through the city, you will indeed find a rich history of Irish culture, from the Irish Famine Memorials to the Irish neighborhoods in Southie.
In fact, the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America took place in Boston on March 17, 1737. The parade consisted of a protest in which Irish immigrants rallied to protest low social status in the Hub.
Compare that to the ShamROCK Chicago Council toting the fact that the Chicago River was first dyed green in 1962.
Mauro expands his argument: “Boston is a city where even those who are not Irish are Irish. The Italian Mayor always participates in the St. Patrick’s Day roasts, politicians make their annual pilgrimage to the American-Ireland Fund and Irish Network Boston parties, and the Irish Consulate General becomes the most important person in town.”
Slainte to that.
“Although many other cities have large Irish and Irish American populations and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a grand way…no other city in the U.S. has a concentration of Irish historical sites, cultural centers, and pubs like Boston does,” Mauro concludes.
As my hometown, I love you, Chicago, but 40 pounds of green dye in a river does not a St. Patrick’s Day make. Let the experts in Boston take hold of the reins on this one. After all, it was our gig from the start.