New York City is the land of parades. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gets a lot of attention, but when it comes to celebrating culture, nothing beats the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
When I was growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was always that random holiday that we celebrated for…some reason. My family is Italian and Sicilian, but my mom always hung clovers around the house, simply because she loves the color green. So, it really shouldn’t be shocking to hear that I’ve never placed the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on my list of priorities.
Before I moved to Florida, I worked in Manhattan. I remember the LIRR being packed with parade goers on St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which made me think that this was going to be a huge party. I was more than up for it, even though it’s been super cold lately.
The parade has been going on since way back in 1762 – even before they signed the Declaration of Independence! It was (and still is) designed to celebrate Irish heritage – back then, wearing green was a sign of Irish pride, but it was actually banned in Ireland. The first parade “was comprised of a band of homesick, Irish ex-patriots and Irish military members serving with the British Army stationed in the colonies in New York.”
The route goes up 5th Avenue, and the parade features Irish county societies, the 69th Regiment, schools, colleges, and members of the NYPD and NYFD. It also features marching bands and bagpipe players that really get you in the Irish spirit.
The parade started at 11:00 a.m. Like I said, I remember seeing parade goers on the trains before 8:00 a.m., so I was worried about getting there too late. But, I arrived at 10:59 and managed to get a front row spot near 54th Street. This was my first time spectating a NYC parade, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s some things I noticed:
1. Cross streets get shut down. If you’re trying to get across avenues, you have to find an open street.
2. If you want to get a “prime” spot (like in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral), you need to get there early. Otherwise, you can go uptown and arrive a bit later.
3. The parade is long, but things keep moving. The amount of fun you’ll have is dependent on who you’re with and who is around you. I feel like going with a group is infinitely more fun than just going by yourself. The group of people around me was dead quiet for 99% of the parade.
Cultural events are one of the many things that make New York what it is. Even if you aren’t Irish (ala me), the St. Patrick’s Day Parade should be on your list of things to do – just make sure you’re wearing green!