St. Patrick’s Day is a festivity that is celebrated in grand scale with large-scale participation of both Irish people as well as those of non-Irish descent. Both St. Patrick’s festival as well as the colorful parades marks the arrival of this holy day. Though the festival primarily takes place in Ireland, the parade has a wider appeal in the rest of the world as it is found to be celebrated with a lot of gung-ho in over a 100 cities in USA. The wave of excitement that this entire hullabaloo creates is truly a spectacle worth one’s witness.
St. Patrick’s Festival:
The year 1995 proved to be quite conspicuous for the Irish people as it was the year when the government of Ireland established the St. Patrick’s Festival for the very first time. The principle aim of St. Patrick’s Day was to develop a common forum for the Irish mass to congregate and celebrate this annual international festival around their most important national holiday whereby they can display their talents and achievements on both national and world stages. This festival held in Dublin has parades, concerts, outdoor theatres and firework shows featuring as major attractions. It showcases the multifarious skills of Irish people belonging to different age and social background. The first St. Patrick’s Festival held on March 17th1996, spanning over a day and night attracted as many as 430,000 audiences. With time, this festival soon spilled over to a four-day giant scale celebration and by 2001 it was drawing as large a crowd as 1.2 million people. Previously 5 months’ preparation was enough for the final day of the festival but soon this festival took on a global flavor that resulted in 18 months of planning for the launch of Ireland’s biggest annual celebration.
First St. Patrick’s Day Parade:
St. Patrick’s Day Parade is also a phenomenal aspect of St. Patrick’s Day celebration. St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin is part of this five day long St. Patrick’s Festival. Just as the first St. Patrick Day celebration was not witnessed in Ireland but in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. The same applies for the parade too. St. Patrick’s Day parade was first held in New York City on 17th, March 1966 when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through the city. The Irish music played during the parade not only helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots but also the fellow Irishmen serving in the English army to strengthen the bond with their native land. In 1845 when the Great Potato famine hit Ireland driving almost a million poor and uneducated, Catholic Irish people to pour into America to escape starvation, the American Protestant majority who despised them for their religious beliefs and funny accents, made it difficult for them to even find a menial job. When St. Patrick’s Day arrived and the Irish Americans took to the streets to celebrate their heritage, the newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys. Soon the Irish people realized that it’s time they exploited their political power to their own advantage. Thus St. Patrick’s Day Parade evolved into a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must attend event for political candidates. In 1948, even President Truman attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a proud moment for many Irish whose ancestors had to undergo severe strife against racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.
In fact presently numerous parades are held in various cities across different countries such as in Cleveland, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Coatbridge, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Savannah, Pittsburgh, Denver, Sacramento, Scranton and Toronto. Large parades also take place in other places throughout Europe and the Americas, as well as in Australia and Asia but surpassing them all in its grandeur is the renowned St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in New York City, with 2 million spectators watching the same. However, unlike the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is coordinated by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Belfast parade is based on equality and the only flag to flown on that day is that of St. Patrick. This is a measure taken to ensure that it is not seen as a time, which is exclusively for Republicans and Nationalists so that people belonging to both the party of Unionists and Nationalists can celebrate the day. Thus Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, resulting in the increasing number of “Irish Aid” societies with each group holding annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City:
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City is globally renowned as the largest parade with huge crowd assembling at different points of the route to view the same. Earlier in New York City St. Patrick’s Day, marchers would form up at their parish churches or their organizations’ headquarters and march up to Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Americans would march in these parades as well as dance the Irish jig and sing Irish numbers. Today the Parade starts at 42nd Street and marchers travel north to 86th Street. Customarily the New York Archbishop would review the parade in front of St. Patrick with people marching up Fifth Avenue, led by members of the 165th Infantry. Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians more than 150,000 marchers, who belong to various Irish societies from New York and around the country, participate in this parade. The parade starts at 11a.m. at 42nd Street and makes its way up Fifth Avenue to 86th Street.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pittsburgh:
The annual Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held for the very first time on March 17th1869. It is considered to be the second largest parade in the country following that of New York. Pittsburgh St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks-off a week long celebration of Irish-heritage events in and around Pittsburgh featuring artists, musicians and community groups. It is held each year on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day with the parade beginning downtown at 10a.m and ending at Commonwealth Place. This parade has 20 marching units, including bands, floats, emergency service agencies and many Pittsburgh Irish and other ethnic communities. The parade reaches its climax with the special appearance made by Pittsburgh’s Miss Irish Smiling Eyes and St. Patrick himself.
Thus, the parades prepare a platform for the ongoing round of celebration. Gleeful faces and heart filled with mirth is a common sight during this time of the year as all partake in this festivity, glorifying the name of Saint Patrick and his efforts to spread the words of God.