St Patrick's Day
By Emma Jones
Published Mar 15th, 2006
It seems like there is a parade taking place on 5th avenue every other week but the month of March sees the biggest and the best take over the streets. On March 17th New York City is overrun by green and Guiness in the largest St Patrick's day parade in the world.
The parade has been running officially since 1766 when it was started by the Irish military who had been sent to serve in American colonies. Over the years it flourished with the influx of Irish immigrants to the city and has grown to the cult status it has today. It still retains its roots with a military front who lead the masses along 5th Avenue. There are no floats but over 150,000 people march clan by clan and 2 million spectators join in what is famed as the largest and most popular of the many parades held in New York city each year.
This year's parade is dedicated to the fighting 69th taskforce Wolfhound who served in Iraq and the 19 who were killed there. Its starts at 44th street at 11am and works its way up 5th avenue to 86th street. The best views are above 59th street away from the masses of shoppers and workers. At around midday the parade will pause by the steps of St Patrick's cathedral and a short prayer will be said by the Archbishop of New York
St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and reportedly died on 17th March back in the 461 AD. He was originally from Wales and sold into slavery as a child. As a slave he became religious and after escaping he converted many of the Irish Celtic pagans to Christianity, which is where his sainthood originates. He is also credited with driving snakes out of Ireland, though it is unlikely there ever were any and it just one of many myths and legends in Irish folklore
St Patrick's day in its native home is more of a religious affair. It falls in the period of fasting called Lent but Christian families are allowed to forgo this for the day for the feast of St Patrick. Ironically, many people even come all the way from Ireland to experience the exuberance of the celebration in New York where the American's have turned the day into one big party.
The Irish do like their drink and you haven't celebrated St Patrick's day properly unless you have had a pint of Guiness and an Irish Whiskey. There are plenty of Irish pubs in New York that will be more than happy to welcome you in. Here are a few of the best:
McSorley's Ale house (15E 7th street) is the oldest Irish pub in the city and a good place to start. Move on to the 11th street bar (510E 11th street) which is a neighbourhood favorite and marked just by a Guiness sign - for those who know. O,Neills (729 3rd avenue) is a popular drinking hole and although more commercial, has a traditional feel to it.
If you are not a big drinker or have children then there are plenty of other activities taking place around the city. The Irish Arts Centre (www.irishartscenter.org) is holding an open house including Irish language classes and craft activities for children. If you are a music lover then get yourself over to the New Jersey Performing Arts centre (www.njpac.org) where the Cheiftans are playing.
Whatever you decide to do to celebrate the day, throw yourself into the festivities by dressing up in green, painting you face or tying a shamrock around you neck.
May the luck of the Irish be with you!