NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
Photo: nycstpatricksparade.org
New York City hosts some of the world’s largest holiday parades. For example, the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world and is also the world’s oldest civilian parade. It is held every year on March 17 unless it falls on a Sunday or during Holy Week.

The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York was held on March 17, 1762 – fourteen years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was comprised of Irish ex-patriots and military members serving with the British Army. They were forbidden to wear green back in Ireland so the participants reveled in the freedom to express their culture and national identity.

For the first years, the parade was held by military units but Irish beneficial and fraternal societies took over hosting the event in the early 19th century. However, the parade is still led by the 69th Infantry Regiment and its Irish Wolfhounds. The tradition originated around the 1850s. Right before the parade kicks off, the commissioner asks the officer in command if the 96th is ready, to which he responds, “The 69th is always ready.”

Today, the NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is a five-hour procession involving between 150,000 to 300,000 of participants that march up the 1.5-mile route along Manhattan’s 5th Avenue. The parade includes marching bands, police and military groups, firefighters, various Irish societies, schools and colleges, social and cultural clubs, and more. Unlike many other parades, the NYC St. Patrick’s Parade doesn’t have floats. About 2 million spectators line the streets to watch the vibrant procession.

Although the parade is non-political, many New York politicians or those running for office participate. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch continued to march in the parade up until 2003, even though he was no longer in office, and once proclaimed himself “Ed O’Koch” for the day (and we all know that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day).

While many cities hold their St. Patrick’s Day parade on the weekend prior to March 17, New York City’s Parade usually takes place exactly on Saint Patrick’s Day. However, if it falls on a Sunday, the parade is moved to the previous Saturday. The parade starts at 11 a.m. and lasts for about five hours. It is held rain or shine and has never been canceled due to bad weather.

NYC Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Photo: Diana Robinson



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