St Patrick's Day parades are one of the oldest ways to celebrate the Irish national holiday. Before the Declaration of Independence was even signed in the USA, St Patrick's Day parades were marching through the streets of Boston and New York City. The best parades on St Patrick’s Day include an imaginative combination of floats, marching bands, flags, dance troops, and live entertainment. Each year, these events grow in significance and attendance leaving spectators wondering what they could possibly come up with next year. An important element of St Patrick’s Day history, parades on four continents have helped to keep the spirit of Saint Patrick alive.
St Patrick’s Day Parades
Some people might say that the best parades on St Patrick’s Day take place at home, in Ireland. The capital city of Dublin is home to a fantastic parade, which marches right through the center of the city on wide O’Connell St. Crossing the River Liffey, an impressive range of floats, bands, sports stars, and local politicians all wear green and celebrate the national holiday. On the west coast of the country, Galway is home to a more intimate but equally festive parade. Winding through the narrow, cobbled streets the Galway parade features traditional music and dancers. Both cities also offer great local cuisine and a perfect pint of Guinness—quite possibly unlike anywhere else on the globe.
Others will argue that the best parades on St Patrick’s Day take place in America, which boasts a large population of Irish descent. In Chicago, the entire river is dyed a bright emerald green. In New York City, Fifth Avenue is shut down for the parade no matter what day of the week March 17 falls on. Cities with significant Irish populations such as Boston demonstrate their Irish pride with fervor, and in some places, the celebrations have been expanded from a one-day parade to a weeklong festival. Canadian cities have joined in the celebrations as well, with Vancouver offering a Celtic Fest that prominently features the music, food, and art of Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day history has changed and developed over the years. What began as a religious holiday has morphed into a national and cultural holiday. Parades blanket cities in green and white, and clovers decorate pubs, restaurants, and even clothing. Whether you find yourself in Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Washington DC there is a parade celebrating St Patrick’s Day to attend. Even smaller towns and cities in the US have begun their own parades, from Scranton Pennsylvania to Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Over the course of St Patrick’s Day history, the holiday has spread significantly. On the other side of the world from Dublin, the cities of Auckland and Sydney put on a great show for Paddy’s Day. Even Ireland's neighboring cities of Birmingham and London take to the streets with impressive St Patrick's Day parades and cultural celebrations. Irish markets, live concerts at Irish pubs, and dance performances all complement the central holiday parade. Whether you want to march in the festivities or take a seat somewhere along the parade route, St Patrick’s Day offers plenty of opportunities for participation.
Top image: infomatique (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0