Saturday, March 17, 2012
March 17, 1762 New York holds its first St. Patrick’s Day parade, 14 years before the United States declares independence. The parade comes at a time when Irish Catholics—severely suppressed at home by Irish Protestants and colonial England under what are called “penal laws”—are arriving in the New World in droves. With expressions of nationalism repressed in their homeland, the parade is a chance for Irish immigrants and Irish soldiers serving in the British army to express their pride.
Today, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the biggest in the world, celebrates its 251st year. This parade will span four hours featuring, among its several hundred thousand marchers, bagpipers, drum corps, step dancers, military marching bands, schools, and the usual plethora of city dignitaries. In keeping with its long tradition, the parade will not have any commercial entrants, or any motorized vehicles of any kind.