MONEY sustainability

10 Super Easy Practices That Are Good for the Earth—and Your Budget

In honor of Earth Day, here are 10 incredibly easy things we should all be doing: They're good for the environment and save money at the same time.

Taking major steps like installing rooftop solar panels or buying an electric car are hardly the only ways to go green. It’s very possible to practice an earth-friendly lifestyle without incurring a major cost outlay. In fact, tons of tiny, easy tweaks to what you do and what you buy day in, day out can not only help the environment, they’ll save you money as a bonus. Here are 10 green cost-saving practices for Earth Day—and every day.

  • Walk or Bike

    Capital Bikeshare, Washington, D.C.
    James A. Parcell—The Washington Post via Getty Images Capital Bikeshare, Washington, D.C.

    Cities and even many small towns are increasingly focused on becoming more walkable and bike-friendly. So why not take advantage? Obviously, neither of these modes of transportation requires the use of fossil fuels or electricity. They’re also free or nearly so. Depending on where you live, you might not even have to buy a bike: The bike share program in Washington, D.C., for instance, costs $75 per year and rides are free if they last 30 minutes or less. (Check out MONEY’s ranking of the Best Places to Walk or Bike.)

  • Group Errands Together

    Getty Images—Getty Images

    You could take separate car trips to go grocery shopping, get the oil changed in the car, and visit the doctor for an annual checkup. Or you could combine them into one outing, in a process some call “trip chaining,” which is as simple—or challenging, for some—as being a little more organized and efficient. By planning ahead and grouping errands, you save time and gas money and reduce congestion on the roads.

  • Use Public Transportation

    Craig Warga—Bloomberg via Getty Images New York subway

    Some parts of the country have better public transit than others, and surveys indicate that people—millennials especially—place a high priority on living in cities with good options for getting around. This makes sense for a number of reasons. According to a study on commuter satisfaction, people who get to work on foot, bike, or via train are happiest. These options are not only more affordable compared with driving, the time of one’s commute is more consistent and therefore less stressful. Check out the tools at to scope out transit options and see how much money and carbon emissions you could save by using public transportation in your neck of the woods.

  • Drink Tap Water


    Americans spent roughly $13 billion on bottled water last year, up 6% from 2013. We’re drinking roughly 34 gallons of bottled water annually per capita, up from just 1.6 gallons in 1976. Granted, this is a much healthier option than sugary beverages, but is bottled water any better for us than tap water? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tap water is completely safe; many bottled waters are just tap water that’s sometimes (but not always) filtered. And bottled water easily costs 100 times or perhaps even 1,000 times more than tap water. Only an estimated 23% of disposable plastic water bottles are recycled, by the way.

  • Shop with Reusable Bags

    canvas bag
    Getty Images

    The environmental benefits of shopping with a reusable bag like these recommended by Real Simple are pretty obvious: They eliminate the need for plastic bags that tend to wind up in landfills. Shopping with a reusable bag may also save you money, because stores in places like Dallas and Encinitas, Calif., charge customers 5¢ or 10¢ apiece for non-reusable bags.

  • Don’t Overdo It on Groceries

    shopping list
    Getty Images

    Somewhere between 25% and 40% of the food we buy in the U.S. is thrown away. What this shows is that too many of us buy too much at supermarkets and warehouse bulk-supply retailers, and/or that we’re not particularly good at strategically freezing or concocting leftover dishes. To waste less, shop smarter and be creative with foods that might otherwise be dumped in the trash. And to avoid going overboard with impulse purchases at the grocery store, always make a shopping list in advance, and stick to it.

  • Heat and Cool Your Home Wisely

    Jonathan Maddock—Getty Images

    Among the many straightforward and fairly simple steps you can take to trim back household costs and conserve resources: Turn the heat down in winter (you’ll shave 1% off your heating bill for every 1 degree lower); use fans rather than nonstop A/C in the summer; insulate around doors and windows to protect from drafts; and put heating and cooling systems on a timer so that they’re only in use when needed.

  • Use Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs, Appliances


    They tend to cost more upfront than less efficient models. But they’ll save you money in the long run because they eat up less electricity when being used, and, at least in terms of lightbulbs, they have longer lifespans so therefore have to be replaced less frequently. As for appliances, look for the Energy Star label as a sign of a product’s efficiency—and its potential to shave dollars off your utility bills.

  • Be Practical About Landscaping

    cactuses outside home
    Trinette Reed—Getty Images

    It’s not wise to battle against Mother Nature by trying to force flowers, plants, and grasses to grow in areas where they’re simply not suited. A low-cost, low-maintenance yard is one that incorporates native plants and greenery that flourish in your zone, without requiring extensive watering, fertilizer, and attention—nor a big budget. Check out classic tips from This Old House and Better Homes & Gardens for landscaping that’s gorgeous, affordable, and earth-friendly. Don’t fixate on having a prototypical grassy front lawn, which may look good but often requires loads of time, energy, money, water, and chemicals to maintain.

  • Compost

    Dumping compost
    Jill Ferry Photography—Getty Images

    Many towns give residents free or deeply subsidized composters, and using one is generally as simple as dumping vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, fallen leaves, grass clippings, and such into the bin. The resulting material can be help your garden and new plants grow, and eliminate much of the need to water and buy fertilizers and pesticides. Composting reduces the amount of waste in landfills as well, of course. (Even apartment dwellers can get in on the act with vermicomposting, or composting with worms.)

MONEY Food & Drink

8 Reasons to Love Beer on National Beer Day—or Any Day Really

toasting with beer
Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, not every day is National Beer Day. This very important holiday is held annually on April 7, and to celebrate, we're counting some of the reasons beer is a beverage we love above all others.

National Beer Day is an unofficial—some might say fake—holiday celebrated annually on April 7, because that’s the day in 1933 when people could once again legally buy, make, and drink beer due to the end of prohibition. There’s a trending #NationalBeerDay hashtag and everything.

If you’re just learning about this now, you totally missed out on New Beer’s Eve last night. Bummer. But it’s not too late to partake in National Beer Day festivities today, which mostly involve, well, you know, drinking some beer and stuff.

While enjoying the frosty beverage of your choice, consider the reasons below to celebrate beer today—beyond the obvious, which is that it’s just plain delicious.

Beer is great for the economy. According to the Beer Institute, more than two million Americans earn their livelihoods thanks to beer—farming grains and other ingredients, working in retail outlets that sell beer, actually brewing beer, and so on—bringing in a total of $79 billion in wages and benefits annually. Brewers, importers, and distributors also cough up $5.3 billion in federal and state excise taxes each year.

Beer variety and quality have never been better. The Brewers Association, which represents America’s craft beer movement, reported that as of 2014, there were 3,418 craft brewers in the U.S., an increase of nearly 20% over the year before. Craft beer production rose 42% last year, and for the first time ever, craft brews accounted for more than 10% of all beer sales in America.

You can afford one after just five minutes of work. Using median hourly wages and local beer prices around the world, analysts found out that Americans have to work the least amount of time to cover the cost of a cold brew. The data, revealed in an Economist infographic, indicated that as of 2012, the average worker on earth had to toil for 20 minutes in order to earn enough money to pay for a beer—which averaged a retail price (at the store, not bars or restaurants) of $1.55 at the time. In the U.S., where wages are much higher, employees must suffer through only five minutes of work before earning enough scratch to cover the cost of a cold one ($1.80). Everybody all together: USA! USA! USA!

Beer can be especially cheap on National Beer Day. In all honesty, most bars and restaurants probably have no clue that it’s National Beer Day. But some of the establishments that are aware of this fake holiday are celebrating with gusto. Eight stores and restaurants inside New York City’s Grand Central Terminal have deals and free tastings for local brews in honor of National Beer Day. For instance, Juniors, best known for cheesecake, offers 50% off Brooklyn Lagers with the purchase of any deluxe burger today.

Anyone can make halfway decent beer. The American Homebrewers Association estimated that as of 2013, there were 1.2 million homebrewers in the country, two-thirds of whom started brewing in 2005 or later. Collectively, they produce more than two million barrels of homemade brew per year. Most craft brewing operations begin as homebrewers, and even those who aren’t interested in starting businesses are able to make money if their beer recipes prove popular. Slate recently highlighted a startup called Kit Lab, where brewers can upload their recipes as a homebrewing kit and receive $5 each time someone purchases it.

Some especially great beer is made by monks. Try as you may, your homebrew probably won’t be quite as tasty as the brews lovingly crafted by the original hipster entrepreneurs, monks. The monks at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass., are renowned for brewing Spencer Trappist Ale. Production in the U.S. kicked off in the summer of 2014, and on Beer Advocate, beer enthusiasts give the ale a rating of 90, which is “Outstanding.”

The underdogs are gaining ground on the corporate giants. When Budweiser aired an incredibly defensive Super Bowl commercial that proclaimed itself “Proudly a Macro Beer” and mocked hipsters and the craft beer trend in general, the move was viewed as somewhat desperate. After all, Budweiser sales have steadily declined for decades, and Anheuser-Busch InBev has tried multiple strategies to try to revamp the stale image of Bud and its other mass-produced brands. The corporate beer giants have also been buying up craft beer labels and creating their own faux craft “crafty” brands to compete with the legions of small, independent brewers around the country. And the overarching reason for all of the above schemes is that craft beer is a legitimate threat to macro beer, which once enjoyed a near monopoly of the market in the U.S.

There’s beer for all tastes. At the same time that craft brews have soared, a few old-school beer brands have seen sales rise largely thanks to nostalgia. Coors Banquet and Miller Lite have used old-school packaging—stubby bottles and the 1970s logo, respectively—to successfully boost sales. And drinkers drawn to the old-fashioned packaging seem to enjoy the brew inside. Not everyone likes dark, hoppy brews, and true beer lovers should only care about what they’re drinking, not what someone else likes to drink.

TIME White House

How the White House’s Easter Egg Tradition Got Rolling

Easter Egg Roll
Robert A. Reeder—The Washington Post / Getty Images Arryan Smith, 4, starts the Easter egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House in 1996

Easter Monday, 1878: Rutherford B. Hayes hosts the first White House Easter Egg Roll

The White House South Lawn would never have become home to America’s best-known Easter egg roll if Congress hadn’t first passed a fun-spoiling law that denied local children access to the most popular egg-rolling venue of the 1870s: Capitol Hill.

Blame Andrew Johnson’s family for starting the trend: according to the Clinton White House, Johnson’s grandchildren dyed eggs on Easter Sunday to roll the next day on the Capitol grounds, while the First Lady supervised from the South Portico. (Other sources say the tradition goes back to James Madison’s presidency.) The trend caught on, and in the years that followed, the Easter Monday roll drew families for daylong picnics while “children rolled both their hard-boiled eggs and themselves down the lush green hills.”

A particularly raucous roll in 1876 took a sulfurous toll on the Capitol grounds, and Congress fought back. Citing an inadequate landscaping budget, it passed a law forbidding the grounds from being “used as a children’s playground,” starting in 1877. While that year’s egg roll was rained out anyway, President Hayes saved the day the following year by opening the White House grounds for the occasion.

The games have changed over the years, from egg picking (hitting another hard-boiled egg with your own, hoping to crack the other egg without cracking yours) to egg croquet (in which hollowed eggshells are propelled through croquet hoops — very carefully — using fans). Today’s most popular event, the egg race, wasn’t introduced until 1974, by the Nixons.

And while egg rolling may have fallen out of favor in general, the White House egg roll never has; in fact, it’s the largest annual event held at the White House. These days, with demand outpacing lawn space, attendance is determined by lottery. But it has always drawn a diverse crowd, as an 1898 news report attests, proclaiming: “All sorts and conditions of children find their way to the president’s grounds to enjoy Easter Monday. Some of the children are beautifully dressed in silks and laces and have French nurses to watch over them and carry their eggs for them, while other little ones are dressed in very shabby garments with elbows out and toes peeping from their little shoes.”

(A 1902 report adds that, “The white and the negro leave questions of race domination rest for the day and mingle democratically.” And while gay and lesbian couples weren’t sure that their families were truly welcome at George W. Bush’s egg rolls, Obama formally welcomed them in 2009.)

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the mess. What the Capitol groundskeepers refused to do, the White House lawn crew has down to a science, as TIME reported in 1953, when President Eisenhower revived the tradition 12 years after it was suspended for World War II.

“The Eisenhowers really didn’t know what to expect,” TIME wrote, “but the gardeners began a week in advance preparing for the worst, installing storm fences, comfort stations and drinking fountains.”

The egg roll itself turned the South Lawn into a child-sized war zone that would take weeks to clean up, the story added: “By noon, the grounds were a dreadful mass of mashed eggs, gooey chocolate marshmallow, melting jelly beans and picnic midden. Most unexpected casualty: a press photographer lost both shoes.”

Read the full report on the 1954 Easter Egg Roll, here in the TIME archives: The White House: Mob Scene

TIME Holidays

See the Year the Eisenhowers Returned the Easter Egg Roll to the White House

The event returned to the President's lawn in 1953

On its face, the annual White House Easter Egg Roll is an occasion for the commingling of adorable children and fluffy bunnies—of either the four-legged or the full-grown-adult-in-costume variety. But it’s hard to imagine anything taking place on White House grounds without the undercurrent of politics, even if the majority of attendees, three-feet-high and preoccupied with rolling eggs, remain unaware.

The Easter Egg Roll has twice been a venue for conversations about inclusion and diversity. In 2006, around 100 gay and lesbian couples and their children attended the event, despite the shouts of a small group of protesters, to make a statement about the different kinds of families that make up America. During President Obama’s first year in office, he formally invited gay and lesbian families to participate.

More than half a century earlier, during his first year in office, President Eisenhower restored the tradition after a twelve-year hiatus. On that day in 1953, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower was disturbed to see that black children were peering in at the festivities from beyond the gates, instead of taking part. The following year, she invited African-American familes to join for the first time since the tradition officially began in 1878, a small but symbolic blip on the path to integration.

But on that April morning, attendees were mostly focused on figuring out what, exactly, an egg roll was. As a TIME briefing reported, “No one seemed to know what to do at an egg roll. Some bowled eggs across the greensward; others tossed them high in the air with occasional disasters.” The first aid station, consequently, was quite busy.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

MONEY Holidays

A $49,000 Bunny and 6 Other Crazy Numbers for This Holiday Weekend

(left) Marshmallow Peeps factory; (right) Passover matzo at the Manischewitz Co. factory in Newark, New Jersey.
Kristoffer Tripplaar/Alamy (left)—Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images) Marshmallow Peeps factory (left) ; Passover matzo at the Manischewitz Co. factory (right).

Whether you want to spend thousands on a "prime Passover experience" or tens of thousands on a chocolate bunny, retailers have your holiday needs covered.

This year, Easter and Passover fall on the same weekend, which means grocery stores will be overrun by shoppers grabbing last minute-supplies for seders and holiday dinners. Consumers will shell out more than $2 billion just on candy alone.

Here are some other impressive numbers associated with these two holidays.

$16.4 billion
The amount consumers plan to spend this year on Easter, compared with $15.9 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. That averages out to about $140 per person.

The number of Peeps flavors available during Easter season. You can enjoy a sugar-coated marshmallow chick in flavors that include “party cake,” “sour watermelon,” “sweet lemonade,” and “mystery flavor.”

Cost of a chocolate Easter bunny with diamonds for eyes being sold by chocolatier Martin Chiffers via luxury product site Don’t worry about waste: The site states that “Once the bunny has been eaten, the diamonds can be set into a bespoke piece of jewellery (such as earrings) free of charge.”

The typical premium for kosher foods versus nonkosher foods, year-round. Special “kosher-for-passover” products are even more expensive because of the extra requirements the food must meet.

The penalty for price gouging on kosher-for-Passover products, as proposed by a new bill in the New York state Senate.

The price of the eight-day “Prime Passover Experience” at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. For that sum, you get an ocean-view room and butler service, plus options for horseback riding, private sailing, limo service, yoga, spa time, and vintage wine with your Passover meal.

More than 40%

Bon Appetit/Alamy (left)—Scott &Zoe/Getty Images (right)

Increase in the sales of eggs, which feature both in Easter egg hunts and on the seder plate, in the week before Easter.

TIME Sports

The Centuries-Old Good Friday Tradition You’ve Probably Never Heard About

Busmen from the Crawley, Sussex depot at the Tinsley Green, Surrey marbles match v Tinsley Green, 19th April 1935
Popperfoto/Getty Images Busmen from the Crawley, Sussex depot at the Tinsley Green, Surrey marbles match, April 19, 1935

This annual Good Friday event isn't exactly a religious rite

This year, on Good Friday, observers may mark the day with prayer and preparation for Easter.

But in Tinsley Green, a small town near London, a very different sort of Good Friday tradition will take place, just as it has for decades. The British and World Marbles Championship is held on that day every year and, as TIME described it in 1969, the annual event has been going for far longer than one might expect:

As legend has it, the British marbling tourney traces its heritage to the days of Elizabethan chivalry. For the hand of a maiden, two 16th century swains clashed in an “all known sports” tournament in which marbles, for reasons now obscure, became the dominant contest. By the 1700s the marble tournament had become an annual Good Friday ritual in Tinsley Green. The tourney began in the morning; at high noon (the hour Sussex taverns open), the referee cried “Smug!” and the tournament ended. The rules are wondrously simple: 49 marbles are placed in the “pitch” (ring) and each member of the competing teams takes his turn at trying to knock one out. Shooting is a thumbs-only proposition—a flick of the wrist constitutes a “fudge” (foul) and disqualifies the contestant for that round. As in pool, each successful shot merits another, and the team that picks up the most marbles wins.

According to the tournament’s website, the ritual fell away sometime around the year 1900 and was brought back in 1932. Though the first years of that era saw the matches as mostly local competitions, the tournament began to attract foreign teams as well. That 1969 story focused on a team from Chicago that threatened to take the title — except that they never showed up.

And even if they had, TIME ventured, they were unlikely to win. After all, the defending champions had a secret weapon: “marbles hand-carved from the finest porcelain commodes” because “only porcelain gives the ‘tolley’ (shooter) the proper heft and feel.”

MONEY Food & Drink

8 Signs We May Have Reached Peak Peeps

Mark Stehle—Invision for PEEPS® Yes, there's even a Peeps Zamboni.

Peeps, the classic marshmallow Easter candy, are riding on quite the sugar high in terms of popularity. It has to wear off at some point. Doesn't it?

There are some people out there who hate Peeps, the brightly-colored, sickly-sweet marshmallow candies that came to fame mainly for providing supercharged sugar rushes to children on Easter morning. An I Hate Marshmallow Peeps Facebook page has more than 500 likes, for instance, while the occasional blogger will feel compelled to rant about his or her Peeps hate around this time of year.

But the Peeps haters sure seem to be drastically outnumbered by the Peeps lovers, based on all the examples of peeps demonstrating their interest and devotion to Peeps candy below. The only question that remains is when Peeps’ popularity will level off. Have we already hit peak Peeps? Or will this tiny iconic candy somehow become an even larger presence in American culture one day? After all, every fun meme, like every sugar rush, dies off eventually.

For now, let’s reflect on a few of the signs that consumer interest in Peeps remains sky-high today:

Peeps come in more than 60 varieties. At least 35 kinds of Peeps are sold during Easter season, including sour watermelon and fudge-dipped lemon flavors, while another 30 or so varieties hit the market for Christmas, Halloween, and other periods.

You can buy an absurd amount of Peeps merch. Peeps products that have nothing to do with food include Peeps socks (bunnies or ducks, in youth and adult sizes, $9), Peeps hoodies ($40), Peeps trucker hats ($20), Peeps microbead pillows ($20), Peeps earbuds ($10), Peeps shoelace accessories ($8), Peeps scented candles ($20), and a variety of plush Peeps toys priced as high as $100.

There are Peeps art shows and contests all over. The sixth annual Peeps Art Exhibition at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin runs through April 12, while the Washington Post, Michigan’s, and others host Peeps diorama contests each year. The Pioneer Press in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, meanwhile, has bragging rights for putting on the first Peeps diorama contest, back in 2004. Nationwide, there are more than a dozen Peeps-themed art shows and contests. One ambitious young artist made Katy Perry’s Left Shark with Peeps this year.

(Perhaps matzo art could be the next trend? To celebrate Passover this year, one artist in Philadelphia used 300 boxes of matzo to create two six-foot-tall matzo towers and cover 1,200 square feet in a floor-to-ceiling exhibit called “Into the Desert.”)

They’re core ingredients in Easter cocktails. Restaurants, bars, and resorts roll out Peeptinis, Patron & Peep cocktails, and more, usually with bunny- or duck-shaped Peeps as garnishment.

They’re being paired with craft beers too. A couple of establishments in Pennsylvania offer a three-course pairing of craft brews and Easter candy, and Peeps—made in PA—are one of the “courses.” The brag-worthy gastronomic adventure costs $10, and comes with a souvenir pint glass.

Peeps Milk is a thing. Three varieties of Peeps-flavored milk went on sale a month ago: Marshmallow Milk, Chocolate Marshmallow Milk, and Easter Egg Nog. We’re still waiting to see what happens when anyone is brave enough to use the milk in a bowl of sugary cereal.

So is Peepshi—a.k.a. Peep sushi rolls. Peepshi, which incorporates crispy rice treats rather than raw fish, is one of 60 official recipes listed at the Peeps website. Those are only the “official” recipes, mind you. There are hundreds if not thousands more unofficial Peeps recipes out there, including things like Peeps Pizza and Peeps Kebabs.

A Peeps movie is in the works. Around Easter time last year, filmmaker Adam Rifkin (writer of “Small Soldiers,” director of “Detroit Rock City”) optioned the TV and movie rights for Peeps. The plot for the film supposedly involves a wild adventure around a Peeps diorama contest, featuring a lost Peep and, we’re guessing, quite a few shenanigans and sugar jokes.

TIME Holidays

How One of History’s Best April Fools’ Day Pranks Was Debunked

April 23, 1934
TIME From TIME's April 23, 1934, debunking of the lung-powered flight hoax

Don't believe everything you read

Although the exact origin of April Fools’ Day is uncertain, playing springtime pranks is a nearly universal custom, adopted around the globe and throughout history — perhaps, some have suggested, beginning with the Roman festival of Hilaria, which was celebrated by dressing up in disguise. Over the past century, April 1 hijinks have become a mainstay of Western culture.

One of the more legendary jokes came in 1934, when a German news magazine published a photo of a man on skis, propelling himself into the air by blowing into a straw to turn a pair of rotors. Many American newspapers were taken in by the hoax, including the New York Times, which ran the photo with the caption, “Man flies on his own power for the first time in history.”

TIME, however, was not fooled, as an article from later that month made clear:

Surely Pilot Kocher‘s exploit was major news, yet not one word of it had appeared in print in the U. S. until the pictures arrived. There was good reason why. Pilot Kocher had flown only in the fertile imaginations of the editors of Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, who had cooked up the pictures for their magazine’s famed annual April Fool edition. Hearst’s International News had been gloriously hoaxed, and the U. S. Press with it. But in borrowing the Illustrirte Zeitung‘s feature, the International News editors missed two ingenious points: 1) The pilot did not simply blow the rotors around by sheer lung-power. He breathed normally into the box, in which a marvelous chemical contrivance converted the carbon dioxide of his breath into fuel to run a small motor which turned the rotors! (As everyone should know, carbon dioxide is anything but combustible.) 2) The pilot’s name, Koycher (not Kocher), was a freak spelling of Kencher which means “puffer” or “hot air merchant.”

But it wasn’t long before the kind of flight news that would have once been an obvious hoax began to seem feasible: in 1937, faux-pilot Koycher showed up again in the pages of TIME, but as a counterexample. “Three years ago, like many another newspaper, the New York Times carried an astonishing picture of a man on skis propelling himself off the ground by puffing into a pair of rotors. It turned out to be an April Fooler concocted by the editors of Germany’s Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung,” TIME noted. “Last week, however, the feat which Icarus and Leonardo da Vinci made famous by failure was finally achieved. In Milan, where Leonardo experimented with flapping wings 400 years ago, Pilot Vittorio Bonomi took off, flew five-eighths of a mile in a bicycle plane worked only by his own strength.”

Read TIME’s 1934 debunking of the lung-powered flight, here in the TIME Vault: Daedalus

TIME Crime

The Year They Cancelled St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade
Tim Boyle—Getty Images The St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago on Mar. 11, 2000

It happened in Chicago in 1890. The reason was murder

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Today Saint Patrick’s Day is a broadly inclusive festival associated with fun, frivolity and, in Chicago, turning the river green. Chicago’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1843 when the city was a mere six years old and the population about 8,000. By 1890, Chicago’s population had swollen to over one million and 17 percent of the city (or almost 180,000 people) were either Irish-born or had one parent born in Ireland.

In this period, Saint Patrick’s Day was an exclusively Irish (or Irish-American) affair, celebrated with a parade, dinners and balls, but for some there was a purpose to it that went beyond mere celebration. In the 1880s, radical Irish Americans flocked to join Clan na Gael —a secret revolutionary society devoted to using force to secure Ireland’s freedom from Britain. Winning Irish independence by force was a costly enterprise and so, while time was spent plotting and planning, writing manifestos, stockpiling dynamite, and penning newspaper columns, fundraising was also a key priority for the Clan. The chief fundraising activities were picnics, balls, and fairs, and Saint Patrick’s Day was just one of the several days promoted by the United Irish Societies of Chicago (UISC), an umbrella group representing many Irish and Irish American organizations, but run by the Clan. In addition to Saint Patrick’s Day, committed Irish republicans also celebrated Robert Emmet’s birthday (March 4); the Feast of the Assumption and the anniversary of Hugh O’Neill’s victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford in 1598 (August 15); and the anniversary of the execution of the Manchester Martyrs in 1867 (November 23).

During the 1880s, Saint Patrick’s Day was marked with enthusiasm by the Irish and thousands attended functions in halls across the city. The halls were decked out with green ribbon and concerts of Irish traditional music and rebel songs took place. Republican songs such as “The wind that shakes the barley” and “The rising of the moon” were particular favorites. Most popular of all was T. D. Sullivan’s “God Save Ireland,” written in 1867 and inspired by the last words of the Manchester Martyrs as they were led from the dock after being sentenced to death.

It was set to the tune of the American Civil War song “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp!” and by the early 1870s it was regularly referred to as the Irish national anthem. At the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in 1888, Clan member and medical doctor Patrick Cronin led the crowd in a rendition of the song so loud “that the rafters shook and the [building] seemed in serious danger of collapsing . . . and the street-car horses on Madison Street shied as they passed a block away.”

For Irish nationalists in Chicago the warmer weather associated with the August 15 celebrations meant that an annual picnic was organized. From 1876 this picnic was held at Ogden’s Grove, near the junction of North and Halsted, far from the working-class centers of south Chicago but within walking distance for many living on the north side of the city. If eating, drinking, dancing, and speeches full of fire and brimstone could defeat Britain then Irish chances of success were high. As “Mr Dooley,” the comic, fictional creation of Finley Peter Dunne, wryly observed: “There’s wan thing about th’ Irish iv this town…they give picnics that does bate all. Be hivins if Ireland cud be freed be a picnic, it ‘d not on’y be free to-day, but an impre [empire].” Thousands attended the picnics, designed in large part as a social gathering for families. Entertainment was laid on for adults and children. There was Irish dancing, alongside the “usual paraphernalia” of merry-go-rounds, fat men’s races, thin men’s races, three-legged races, girls’ sack races, long jumps and high jumps, the wheel of fortune, putting the shot and throwing the hammer, lung testers, and “try your weights.” Stalls sold food and drink and in the evening, following the inevitable political speechmaking, bands played a range of Irish and American dance tunes and the celebrations often culminated with a firework display.

The following decade, things were rather different. In Chicago, Saint Patrick’s Day 1890 came and went without any parade. No Patrick Cronin sang “God Save Ireland,” no rafters shook, no horses shied. Why were the Irish so silent that year? In a word: murder. In May 1889, Dr. Cronin had been summoned from his surgery on an emergency. A man had been injured at Patrick O’Sullivan’s icehouse in Lake View and Dr. Cronin was called to help. However, the call for aid turned out to be a ruse. Cronin was lured to an isolated cottage where he was brutally murdered and his naked and beaten body stuffed into a sewer where it was discovered several weeks later.

The police investigation, and subsequent murder trial, captivated the press and public both in Chicago and beyond. It soon became apparent that Cronin’s murder was the result of an internal dispute within Clan na Gael and fingers were quick to point at Alexander Sullivan, the leader of the Clan. Sullivan was never charged with Cronin’s murder but the press coverage surrounding the case forced Clan na Gael and its activities into the limelight. After such public exposure, the society’s ability to act as an effective fundraiser for Irish republicanism was greatly diminished. Many Irish in Chicago had joined Clan na Gael not because they had any overriding interest in Irish nationalism, but as a way of securing a good job; they were primarily interested in what the Clan could do for them, not for what they could do for Ireland. Cronin’s murder forced them to make a political decision and large numbers walked away from involvement in any form of Irish nationalism.

Chicago’s Irish and Irish American population was divided by the Cronin murder—a split that lasted into the early years of the twentieth century —and, despite the conclusion of the murder trial in December 1889 (several of Sullivan’s supporters were convicted), there was no appetite for any celebration of all things Irish on March 17, 1890. In 1891 the Saint Patrick’s Day parade was revived but it was a subdued affair, and it was many years before Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated with the exuberance we see today.

Gillian O’Brien is a senior lecturer in History at Liverpool John Moores University and the author of “Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago” (Chicago, 2015). Follow her on Twitter @gillianmobrien or her personal blog:

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TIME Holidays

How St. Patrick’s Day Became the Most Global National Holiday

US President George W. Bush receives a bowl of sha
Stephen Jaffe—AFP/Getty Images WASHINGTON, : US President George W. Bush receives a bowl of shamrocks from Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (L) on March 13, 2002.

How the wearing of the green has spread worldwide

Even though St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, parades and revelry in his name will ensue worldwide on Tuesday. The holiday’s popularity is global, spreading far past the Emerald Isle to cities with very few ethnic Irish people. There’s no obvious explanation for why Ireland’s national day is celebrated so broadly instead of, say, Bastille Day, the Fourth of July or Cinco de Mayo.

As historian and Dublin-based Boston College professor Michael Cronin explains, the modern version of the holiday is largely an American export, celebrations gaining popularity as Irish immigrants asserted their cultural and political presence in American society. Parades in the U.S. started cropping up in the 1800s, but in Dublin, Cronin says, you wouldn’t have seen that kind of celebration until around the 1990s.

Now, decades later, the wearing of the green is an international tradition — but each location’s history uniquely informs the rest of the celebration.

“St. Patrick’s Day as we know it is a new world phenomenon,” Patrick Griffin, a history professor at Notre Dame, says. “There’s nothing really Irish about it now; it’s nostalgic and schmaltzy.”

But beneath all the paper shamrocks and Guinness merchandise, every city still has its own history and its own holiday flair, sometimes involving Irish immigrants, and funnily enough, sometimes not. Here’s a look at how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated around the world:

New Orleans

The Louisiana port city loves a good party, and since New Orleans was also a major hub for Irish immigration to the U.S., it’s no surprise they’ve been hosting festivities since 1809. What is a bit bizarre, however, is one of the day’s most cherished traditions: a vegetable food fight. According to Cronin, the practice has a benign origin.

“For the feast of St. Patrick, which is of course a Catholic holiday, it was common for the rich people up on floats in the parade to throw food down for the poor,” he says.

Eventually, the noble intentions deteriorated into a free-for-all of cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions, which parade floats still stock in ample supply. Revelers will toss them into the crowd along with another New Orleans St. Patrick’s Day mainstay, the Moonpie.


For most countries, even the U.S., St. Patrick’s Day is an unofficial holiday. It is only officially recognized in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Newfoundland, and a small Caribbean island called Montserrat. Also known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean, the island, still a British territory, was a refuge for persecuted Irish Catholics as far back as the 17th century. Most of Montserrat’s 5,000 residents claim some Irish heritage or affiliation.

The celebration, a unique fusion of Irish, African and Caribbean tradition, also commemorates a failed slave revolt on St. Patrick’s Day 1768. The island hosts a “freedom run” to mark the anniversary, while also taking part in some more familiar practices, like serving green beer.


Japan’s capital city has hosted St. Patrick’s festivities since 1992. In the years following, celebrations have spread all over the nation. Tokyo’s parade is unique because it was primarily organized by people who aren’t Irish. Some Japanese people, Cronin says, were so enamored with the holiday and with Irish customs that they adopted the holiday.

The annual festivities are now organized by a non-profit called Irish Network Japan, a group comprised of both Irish and non-Irish Japanese people that seeks to foster cultural exchange and unity.


One of the longest-running parades on the North American continent is hosted in Montreal, where the Quebecois have staged an annual parade since 1824. And they have been celebrating in some fashion since the mid-1700s, when Irish soldiers in the British army observed St. Patrick’s Day there during the conquest.

Cronin says that in this case, the enthusiasm is less about Irish identity and more about a shared Roman Catholic faith. Montreal was originally colonized by Catholic missionaries and maintains a strong Catholic identity today.

Dripsey, County Cork, Ireland

A village in southern Ireland holds the Guinness World Record for shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade. Beginning in 1997, residents would march for only 77 ft.—the distance between the village’s two pubs. Unfortunately, the parade has been defunct since 2007, after the closure of one of the pubs, the Lee Valley Inn.

“For people in Ireland it’s different than America,” Griffin tells TIME. “They’re poking a little fun at themselves.”

Washington, D.C.

Every year, the White House hosts the Irish Prime Minister for a “Shamrock Ceremony,” where the visitors present the president with a crystal bowl full of shamrocks. This year, president Barack Obama will meet with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny. The ceremony is followed by dinner, where the Irish politicians are treated to a “traditional” Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage.

But most Irish people, Cornin says, aren’t really familiar with the pink, salty dish. It likely developed in Irish American communities because corned beef is a cheap cut of meat. In Ireland, he says, a more typical St. Patrick’s Day feast might feature a spring lamb.

The International Space Station

Love for the holiday is so widespread it even extends outside the atmosphere onto the International Space Station. In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield wore a green sweater and bow tie aboard ISS, took a photo of Ireland from orbit and even posted a recording of himself singing “Danny Boy.” Two years earlier, American astronaut and flautist Catherine Coleman performed an Irish flute song in space for the holiday.

“It’s amazing to me,” says Cronin. “There’s no other nation in the world that can convince all the other countries to celebrate their national day. Why is an American kid worried about the patron saint of Ireland?”

Whatever the reason, on Tuesday when you dig for that shamrock tie you only wear once a year, know that you are most definitely not alone.

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