St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest events on the NYC calendar. Here’s a historical outline of the luck of the Irish in the Big Apple, and how you can celebrate the holiday in 2016.
Beginning in the late 1700s, Irish immigrants started flocking to America in droves, fleeing hardships in their homeland — and since then, Irish culture has helped shape the Big Apple that we know so well today. Through contributions in literature, theatre, and of course socially (how could we miss a chance to mention some of New York’s most famous Irish pubs, like McSorley’s or Molly’s?), the Irish have played a significant role in the city’s history and maintain a distinct presence here today.
Most notably, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has become a keystone in celebrating Irish culture in NYC over the past 250 years, and remains a huge annual event for Irish-Americans and non-Irish alike.
Take a look at the brief history of the Irish in New York City — why they came, how they lived, and how you can show some Irish pride this year, regardless if you’re from the shores of Éire.
New York City Goes Green
In 1845, the infamous Potato Famine hit Ireland and the nation began a diaspora of massive proportions. According to the Tenement Museum, approximately 1.5 million Irish migrants landed in the United States between 1846 and 1855 — many of them settling in the Big Apple, further cementing the city’s renowned melting pot culture.
A major landing point for these early Irish migrants was NYC’s Five Points slum, now located in present-day Chinatown. Notorious for poverty, and crime — and the locale of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York — Five Points was actually a large community of working-class men, women, and children who worked diligently at both skilled and unskilled jobs.
To get an enlightening glimpse into the struggles and the triumphs of these immigrants and other Irish men and women, you can pay a visit to various similar historical sites across the city, such as the Irish Hunger Memorial, which commemorates the victims of the famine, or the Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the city.
And, of course, any mention of Irish culture in New York would be incomplete without a discussion of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Long-regarded both as one of the most popular parades in New York and one of the city’s most significant traditions, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is held on March 17th in commemoration of the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
Attendees have been marching since 1762, when a group of expats yearning for the comfort of the homeland decided it was time to celebrate their Irish heritage in their new home. The Parade now regularly turns out crowds of approximately two million, showcasing bands, bagpipes, and kilts alike.
What’s more, the Parade has always been completely volunteer-run, a huge display of Irish pride and commitment to preserving Irish-American culture in the city.
What’s Up in 2016
If you want to flex your four-leaf clovers this year, head on over to 44th Street to witness the first moments of the Parade, which kicks off at 11am on Thursday, March 17.
Marchers will trek up Fifth Avenue until they hit the American Irish Historical Society on East 80th Street, normally around 4:30-5:00pm. Luckily, the Fifty NYC hotel is just a quick stroll from the Parade’s epicenter, as well as to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the most prominent cathedrals in NYC!
(Main image credit: Matthew Stroup/flickr)