Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. St Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated across Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is a tradition that started on March 17th, 1762 – fourteen years before the United States declared independence from Great Britain. Band members were comprised of Irish people who had fled Ireland, and Irish nationals serving in the British Army. The parade was intended as a show of defiance: an opportunity to speak and sing in their native tongue and celebrate their culture.
By 1851, the parade had become a long-established tradition and the Irish 69th Regiment began to lead the parade. It acquired a new sponsor in the form of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Who would have thought that nearly 250 years later, the parade would still be led by the same regiment?
The modern day parade
Today, the parade is huge, and the celebrations are among the biggest in the United States. The parade forms the central part of the celebrations with galas and pub crawls running side-by-side. St Patricks Day gifts are also available (https://www.shamrockgift.com/st-patricks-day). The parade starts at 11:00 am on 17th March, on Manhattan’s 44th Street. The only exception to this is when the 17th falls on a Sunday, in which case it is held on Saturday 16th. The parade then continues until around 5pm.
It would be impossible for something that started centuries ago not to be controversial. The traditional values espoused by those marching were heavily criticised during the 1990s, resulting in a series of high profile lawsuits which went to the Supreme Court. The rights of the organisers prevailed against those that objected.
The Impact of 9/11
It is also to be expected that modern day tragedies should inevitably shape the parade. The heroism displayed by members of the emergency services during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 was honoured in the Saint Patrick Day’s Parade of 2002. At exactly midday, silence descended over the crowds, as those marching turned south to face the site of the twin towers and prayers were said for the victims of the terrorist attack. It is estimated that around three million spectators and 300,000 marchers turned out in a show of solidarity that year.