Saint Patrick's Day

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The history of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in many parts of the world. While St. Patrick may have ties to Ireland, the best-known and largest St. Patrick's Day parade does not occur on the Emerald Isle.

For more than 200 years, the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade has held the honor as the United States' premier and oldest St. Patrick's Day parade. March 17, 2016, will mark the 254th time celebrants have marched along the streets of New York. This proud Irish-American tradition is even older than the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The parade is held for St. Patrick and also in honor of the Archdiocese of New York.

New York's parade is among the largest and most famous parades held in honor of St. Patrick's Day, attracting celebrants from all over the world. The parade was originally held in Lower Manhattan, beginning at the Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Greenwich Village. When the new cathedral opened in midtown along Fifth Avenue, the parade was moved and rerouted. It now begins at 44th Street and marches up Fifth Avenue, past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street and culminates at 79th Street by the Irish Historical Society. The parade typically lasts between five and six hours.

Visitors to New York City can expect the parade to be held on March 17, except if St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday. Then it will be celebrated on Saturday, March 16, because of religious observances. Public transportation is the best means to getting around on parade day, due to many road closures and the sheer volume of tourists.

Keep in mind that St. Patrick's revelry will have to be G-rated along the route. Public consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited. Anyone found drinking can be ticketed or arrested. Drinking also may be forbidden on various public transportation providers. It's a much better idea to enjoy the parade and then retire to one of the city's many eateries or Irish pubs for further celebrating.

The parade typically includes between 150,000 and 250,000 marchers. Holding to its roots, floats, vehicles and other commercial aspects are not allowed during the parade. Many notable individuals have served as the Grand Marshal of the parade. In 2016, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland, will serve as Grand Marshal.

The New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade is a time-honored tradition. It can be an entertaining way to spend St. Patrick's Day while celebrating the life of St. Patrick and Irish culture.