Did You Know St. Patrick’s Day Traditions Begins With Orange and Blue?

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day traditions Chicago turns the river green and many pubs turn their beer green but did you know that in both cases to create the color of Ireland (from where it got its name “The Emerald Isle.”)  the dye isn’t green?

The green river of Chicago

Turning the river a vibrant green to celebrate St. Patrick’s day has been unique to Chicago for the past 40 years.  When you see the color it turns you might be surprised to learn that the dye used to create this Irish-worthy color isn’t green.

St. Patrick's Day Tradition Turning The River Green


It turns out that the dyestuff used to produce this bright green (originally used to detect leaks that might be polluting the river) starts out the color orange and then as it mixes with the river water it turns green.  According to GreenRiverChicago.com a gentleman named Mike Bailey discovered this fact in 1961, got the idea to use it on a big scale and a tradition was born.

Today this miracle belongs to Mike Butler and his crew, which he claims to always have a little help from a leprechaun who seems to just appear at this time each year.

If you were watching this for the first time you would think this is a mistake or a bad joke. You see the dye is orange and its initial color on the surface of the river is orange and you would think to yourself what heathen would do something like this. After a moment or two you then see the true color magically appear.

Two miracles appear that day, the river turns a perfect shade of green something that many other cities have tried but have not been successful at doing, and the second miracle by starting with the color orange giving the impression that river will be orange only to convert the river to that true Irish green. We believe that is where the leprechaun comes in.

This modern day miracle has woven a great story since its inception complete with Irish exaggeration and Windy City politics.  You can read all about it on GreenRiverChicago.com

I was surprised to learn that this is privately funded project and I hope it continues for at least another 40 years.  Maybe next March I’ll show my support by taking a colorful trip to Chicago.  Care to join me for a few pints of green beer along the green river?

Beer is to Irish as green beer is St. Patrick’s Day

No St. Patrick’s day would be complete without green beer but if you think that the color comes from green food coloring think again.  Sure you can use green if you want a limey brew but if you want a rich, emerald green use blue instead.   How to make and enjoy green beer–

St. Patrick's Day Traditions Green Beer

1. Put in one or two drops of blue food coloring into a chilled beer glass  You may want to experiment with the amount of food coloring a bit to get just the perfect color but I recommend doing this ahead of time rather than the day of.

3.  Pour in a cold, light lager, ale or any beer that would be described as yellow and watch the green magically appear.

4. Raise your glass, toast the Irish in all of us and drink up.

5.  Sing along in your best off-key voice, imitate step dancers, try a little brogue.  Enjoy being Irish.

6. Call a cab for anyone that starts talking to leprechauns.

7. Have a very happy St. Patrick’s Day!

And if you want to know even more about the colors of St. Patrick’s Day see: Should Blue Not Green Be The Color of St. Patrick’s Day?


  1. I’ve always thought the green Chicago River was the zenith of St. P kitch — green beer, green bagels, faces and hair painted green…

  2. Great idea to make one’s day-look how drab everything else- the buildings, trees etc. looks in comparison. The river appears to be an ‘emerald’ in the rough so to speak.