Quite how the life of a fifth century cleric came to be celebrated as a national holiday in more countries round the world than any other, is a bit of a mystery. His real name was not even Patrick, but whatever the truth, ‘Saint’ Patrick has come to be associated with parades, festivals, traditional Irish music and joyous celebration.
If you’re in Orlando with CLC World, at Regal Oaks or Encantada, then you can look forward to authentic Irish food, drink, music and dancing. When you’re in a city that’s home to at least ten of the world’s most famous theme parks, then you’re guaranteed a great time on March 17th. Orlando promises a celebration of all things green that will go well beyond just the Sunday. There are so many venues celebrating St Patrick’s Day you can check out a whole range of them at the VisitOrlando website.
The fact that St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in so many American towns and cities, could have something to do with the fact that the Irish wave of emigration to the USA is thought to have been as high as 5 million people! Whatever the reason, if you’re in the USA, these five cities have some strange and unique claims to fame when it comes to celebrating the feast of this fifth century saint.
Something is always ‘bigger and better’ in the Big Apple. In the case of their St Patrick’s Day Parade, it is said to be the biggest in the world. Back in 2002, an estimated 300,000 people took part just in the processionary parade. The route, which starts at 44th Street and 5th Avenue, takes participants up Fifth and ends at 79th Street. The number of spectators on that day was put at 3 million!
Unbelievably, records exist to show New York’s very first St Patrick’s Day Parade took place 14 years before the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The most unusual tradition in Chicago’s celebrations is the dyeing of the city’s river a very Irish shade of green. The exact constituents of the dye are said to be a closely guarded secret but the city fathers insist it’s vegetable-based and does no harm to the environment. This year’s dyeing event starts at 09:00 on Saturday 16th March and always attracts large crowds of cheering spectators. The best place to stand to watch the river turn green is said to be its intersection with Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. This custom is over 40 years old while the 2019 Parade is the city’s 64th. And if the weather should turn inclement? The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee insist they will be marching, come rain, snow or arctic cold!
The city’s 48th annual St Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on March 16th. Guests of honour, a Seattle tradition, this year come from the city’s civic twin and next year’s European Capital of Culture, Galway. That city’s Mayor, Níall McNelis, will be guest of honour along with a representative of the Irish government, Ciarán Cannon, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Irish abroad.
Although the organisers of the Parade are the Irish Heritage Club, they insist the festivities are about celebrating not just Irish culture but the diversity of all the cultures present in the city. You may have heard Seattle referred to as the Emerald City. This is not a nod to its Irishness, but in fact its wooded scenery. The city prides itself on the number of parks and forested areas within the city limits.
New Orleans is historically said to have been the largest port of entry for Irish immigrants coming into America’s Southern states. Its first St Patrick’s Day Parade took place in 1809 but now there are numerous parades in the city’s different quarters. It might be a good idea to duck occasionally if you attend the city’s biggest parade! Parade participants making their way slowly through the city’s streets on a myriad of different floats have traditionally been known to pelt spectators with onions, potatoes, carrots and even a cabbage – the main ingredients for a fine Irish stew!
Some cities take the Irishness of their parade a little more seriously than others. Such is the case with Cleveland, which has elected a Grand Marshal since 1935. This person is chosen for their contribution to the advancement of Irish activities in the city. In 1963, the city also instituted the honorary title of Mother of the Year. This is conferred on a woman who, its organising committee state, has embodied the values of family, Irish heritage and faith-based virtues. For Sunday the 17th, they anticipate around 13,000 people will take part in the actual Parade while half a million are expected to watch. The thirsty will be drinking an awful lot of Guinness, for those aficionados of Ireland’s most famous dry stout, while another local tradition is corned beef sandwiches.
If you’re USA-bound and expect to run into thousands of people sporting various shades of green, you don’t even need a speck of Irish heritage to join in the fun.
And if you’re still a little hazy – that is, before your Parade day celebrations and not after – about exactly who St Patrick was, then he was a fifth century priest who wasn’t even Irish. Notwithstanding that tiny fact, he spent some 40 years bringing Christianity to the island of Ireland.