Think of Saint Patrick, and a number of images parade through your head: banishing snakes, the color green, Ireland itself. The man who grew into the tradition and namesake to a holiday likely lived around 5th century, although he may have been a merging of two personalities. He converted to Christianity while he was captured by Irish pirates and held in captivity as a teenager. He escaped, returned to Britain and after a vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He might have driven the snakes out -- although since there isn’t really evidence that Ireland had any snakes post-glacial era, that is much more likely to be a Christian metaphor for the devil than factual.
Fast forward to 1762, fourteen years before the Declaration of Independence was signed, and a fast growing group of Irish immigrants in New York City felt homesick. They wore green to symbolize their home land, - and rebel at the fact that the color had been banned there - then marched and sang songs of their youth.
Thus, the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was born.
It has since grown to be the largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in the country, welcoming dignitaries and the Cardinal regularly. Many fun events center around the event, as it has become a city wide celebration.
The Parade begins mid morning on March 17, the anniversary of Saint Patrick’s death, and travels up 5th Avenue from 44th St to 79th, ending at the American Irish Historical Society. It isn’t the kind of parade you can just show up to and throw your kid on top of your shoulders, though; there is a lot to know and understand if you want to stand a chance of seeing any of the 300,000 people who march to honor their traditions.
Grandstand tickets have a dress code. And they’re serious about it. “Dress as if they were were going meet a dignitary, member of the clergy or a government official, because, you very well could.”
The first Parade after 9/11 held two minutes of silence in the middle to honor those lost. The President of Ireland was present for the first time that year.
The Parade takes place over roughly six hours, and spectators must claim their spots pretty early to ensure they’ll see anything.
Someone special is chosen to blow the whistle that starts the parade on its route, and this year it also signals the beginning of Chief of Detective’s Bobby Boyce’s retirement.
The Irish 69th Regiment has lead the marchers up 5th Avenue since 1851.
Now we celebrate with green bagels, carnations and beer, but the original color associated with Saint Patrick and Ireland was blue. It wasn’t until the stories spoke of Patrick explaining the Holy Trinity with a shamrock that green turned into Ireland’s brand.
New York may have the biggest, but our Nook Neighborhoods also find unique ways to party for Saint Patrick. Kill two Guinness with one stone; Search With Style© to find a parade near an open house on Saturday, March 17th.