New York City (NYC)
There is one day of the year, when everyone is Irish in NYC – St. Patrick’s Day. One of the most renowned holidays in the world, the celebration honoring Ireland’s patron saint, kicks off in NYC with a big parade. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held on March 17th except when it falls on a Sunday; it is then celebrated a day earlier due to religious observances. The Parade commences at 11 am, rain or shine, on 44th Street - proceeds up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Irish Historical Society at 83rd Street- and concludes at 86th Street around 5pm.
Originally, St. Patrick’s Day began in Ireland as a Catholic holiday, but over the years it has grown into a festival of Irish culture. A week long celebration of Irish music, theater and visual arts takes place in many regions of Ireland. Family get-togethers are also important, as people sit down for a special meal. The feast of corned beef and cabbage, though, is an American tradition; in Ireland one is more likely to find bacon or a savory roast chicken on the table. Although the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has became a part of celebrations in Ireland these days, it’s the result of an American influence, where the tradition was created by homesick Irish immigrants. More recently, St. Patrick’s Day has become a highly marketable and promoted event in Ireland, resulting in an attractive draw for tourists visiting the country.
The NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade dates back to March 17, 1762, when it was first organized by a group of homesick Irish expatriates and Irish military stationed in the American colonies of NYC as part of the British Army. Participants reveled in the freedom to speak Irish, wear the color green- which was banned in Ireland at the time, sing native songs and play the bagpipe. These things gave powerful meaning to those people who fled their homeland.
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is always escorted by a unit of soldiers - a tradition preserved since the first parade. Over the past 150 years, this honor belongs to the “Irish Infantry” National Guard 69th Regiment. They are followed by Irish bands, various cultural, language and nationalist societies, schools and colleges and the ever –present politicians. The event is televised for four hours on WNBC Channel Four and was web streamed for the first time in 2008.
In 2002, the parade had a special theme – ‘Heroes of 9/11’- and honored police, fire and rescue workers that perished in the World Trade Center disaster. At midday, the entire parade paused for two minutes, turned around and faced south, where the World trade Center once stood, as Cardinal Egan said a prayer for all victims of 9/11. The 2002 parade was the largest parade on record to date with 300,000 marchers and an estimated three million spectators. This was also the first time in history when the acting President of Ireland (Mary McAleese) attended.
To this day, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade remains true to its roots by not allowing any commercial aspects in the parade; it remains a true marcher’s Parade. All of the parade workers and mommittee members are volunteers. Some members’ families have helped to run the parade for several generations. The New York Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest and most famous of NYC parades.