The St Patrick’s Day Parade first made its way through the streets of Manhattan on March 17, 1762 — more than 14 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The parade has been held every year since in honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York. The parade is reviewed from the steps of St Patrick's Cathedral by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. This tradition has remained unchanged since the early days of the parade when the Archbishop of New York observed marchers from Old St Patrick's Cathedral in historic Greenwich Village. The Parade was originally held in Lower Manhattan before the new Cathedral was built on Fifth Avenue.
Every year the parade starts at 44th Street at 11 a.m. and is held every March 17 except when March 17 falls on a Sunday, causing the parade to be held the day before, due to religious observances. The parade marches up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street all the way to 79th Street and the Irish Historical Society, where the parade finishes around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. The St Patrick's Day Parade remains true to its roots by not allowing floats, automobiles and other commercial aspects in the parade, instead featuring between 150,000 and 250,000 marchers.
While the parade is an undisputed highlight of St Patrick’s Day activities, it is by no means the only option for celebrating Irish culture and heritage in one of the largest homes to Irish people outside the Emerald Isle. There is no shortage of Irish bars dotted throughout Manhattan and the other New York boroughs, some more distinguished than others. Finding the perfect pub to have a pint of the black stuff in St Patrick’s honor should be all about feeling failte (Irish for welcome) when you cross the threshold. Many New York Irish pubs serve traditional food and have live music sessions, so you can channel your inner River-dancer and jig up a storm.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is not only a beautiful church to visit for Mass or a tour, it also hosts musical concerts throughout the year. Its annual Irish Heritage Concert is always popular, and is a true celebration of the lyrical land that is Ireland. If you can’t make the concert, throughout the week there are many services held at the cathedral featuring music.
If modern Irish music is better suited to your tastes, the musical "ONCE" is a must-see. The winner of 8 Tony Awards last year, including Best Musical, features an impressive ensemble of actor/musicians who play their own instruments onstage. From the show’s website: “Based on the Academy Award winning movie of the same name, ONCE tells the tale of a Dublin street musician who's about to give up on his dream when a beautiful young woman takes a sudden interest in his haunting love songs. As the chemistry between them grows, his music soars to powerful new heights, but their unlikely connection turns out to be deeper and more complex than your everyday romance.”
Thanks to the Potato Famine, in the mid-1800s the Irish constituted more than a quarter of the population of both Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can pay your respects to those lost during the Famine at the Irish Hunger Memorial. The memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. The Tenement Museum is another option for exploring the Irish immigrant experience. The museum is housed in a former Lower East Side apartment building. Built in 1863, the tenement was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants. The museum’s website says that it “preserves and interprets the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The museum also conducts tours of the neighborhood to further explore the immigrant experience.”
Don your finest green clothes, get ready to say “slainte” (Irish for cheers) and head to New York City for a St. Patrick’s Day you’ll never forget.
(Photo by Johannes Valkama via Flickr)
(This post was written by Erica Taylor)
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