Top of the morning to ya! It’s St. Patrick’s Day; a day that sees most of the Irish population joining together and celebrating their patron saint, St. Patrick (who lived almost 2500 years ago) by raising a glass of Guiness and partying hard. Today we’re looking at St. Patrick’s Day in the USA though, because believe it or not, it’s a pretty big thing, and you might want to get involved. So what is St. Patrick’s Day, and where can you celebrate it in 2021? Keep reading to find out.
Why Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Celebrated by most of Irish descent (and anyone who likes to party), St. Patrick’s Day is an homage to Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick, who lived during the 4th and 5th Centuries.
After being captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland as a young boy, St. Patrick returned to his home in Roman Britain some years later and entered the church like his father and grandfather had done before him. Finding peace and strength in the power of God, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary, spreading the work of God on his travels.
Nowadays, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday and bank holiday in the UK, but the celebrations have reached a global scale thanks to the influx of Irish immigrants to the US, Canada and even Australia in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Whilst in Ireland and the rest of the UK, celebrations took the form of a somber, holy day of remembrance, immigrants in the US especially threw wild, loud, parties. Why? A lot of Irish immigrants were looked down upon by American citizens, who saw them as disease-ridden, and blamed them for stealing the jobs in America. Throwing these incredible parties was a show of pride by Irish men and women who wanted the world to accept them.
Since those early years, the celebrations have become bigger and better, and much more accepted, becoming a national holiday in its own right. In fact, many cities in the US have their own city-wide celebrations. Let’s take a look at who does what.
The 5 best cities in the US for St. Patrick’s Day parties
Of course Chicago gets first mention, seeing as that’s where we’re based. And here in the heart of Illinois, we even make the river run green in celebration of St. Patrick, which is no easy feat. To make it happen, an eco-friendly, vegetable based powder is added to the river water on the morning of the St. Patrick’s parade (which is usually the Sunday before the day itself). Two mix the powder properly into the water, two motorboats are used, and they travel the length of the river to make sure it’s evenly distributed and looking its best.
That’s not all Chicago has to offer though. In fact there’s the Leprechaun Leap – a 5km or 8km race that takes place on the morning of the day, with all runners getting a free commemorative t-shirt & a pass to the local bar once the race is finished. There’s the St. Paddy’s festival, which takes place at the Irish American Heritage Center on Knox Ave, and there are plenty of parades and marches taking place on Chicago’s streets. Last but not least, you’ll find most bars sporting Irish colors and handing out pints of Guinness for the entire day, which keeps a lot of the city preoccupied.
Would you believe that half a million people travel to Boston for St. Patrick’s Day, making it the most popular destination for this annual party? And, over a quarter of Boston’s population is of Irish descent, making it the most popular city for St. Paddy’s celebrations. With its 3-mile-long parade route which sees everything from Irish folk singers, Irish dancers, fancy-dress characters and happy-go-lucky parade goers spreading that incredibly contagious Irish cheer, you’re in for a great time in Boston.
The pubs and bars are usually packed (although this year might be a little different of course), and live music is everywhere you turn, which makes this festival one not to miss. If you’re a fan of the Dropkick Murphys too, they return most years to play in the House of Blues, and catching them live is one of the most Irish ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
New York City, New York
Another city to take St. Paddy’s Day under its wing and give it that good old American welcome is New York – where you’ll find a marathon 6-hour parade that, similar to Boston, has its own share of Irish dancers, folk singers and general merrymakers. In fact, around 100,000 people (yes really) take part in the St. Paddy’s Day parade which runs from around 11am to 5pm. If you’re in NYC for St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll be able to find a bar or two that have a wicked view on the parade, but you may have to fight for a table, as most bars and restaurants are known to be full throughout the day. Alongside the hundreds of parties that take place on March 17, the Empire State Building is lit up in green once night falls, which is a sight to behold.
Washington has plenty of fantastic ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, even though their parades have been cancelled for obvious reasons. Not only can you find special Irish food and drink served in Irish bars and restaurants around the city (like in Kelly’s Irish Times and The Dubliner for example), but there’s St. Patrick’s Catholic Church for more religious affairs, and the Irish Embassy, with its proud Irish flags on display for all to see.
Did you also know that the very man who oversaw the building and design work of the White House was Irish? Yes, that’s right, James Hoban, Irish architect from the 18th Century won the prestigious prize of designing the presidential mansion, and he’s buried out back too, so you can visit his final resting place whilst taking in one of the most famous buildings in the world. Each year, you’ll be able to find the fountain on the north side of the White House dyed green too – so make sure you capture as much as you can in Washington this St. Patrick’s Day!
New Orleans, Louisiana
Our final city to visit on St. Patrick’s Day is New Orleans. They definitely know how to throw a party, and usually, their festivities can last up to a week and a half, which is certainly only for those hardcore fans. This year looks a little different, with a number of bars choosing to close due to the ongoing pandemic. It’s a shame but a necessary safety move that’ll hopefully stop party goers getting or spreading Covid.
With their annual 3 parades, block parties and Irish shenanigans, spending March 17th in New Orleans is one not to miss, especially if you’re looking for a lively and exciting time. This year, there’ll still be plenty of bars open for some socially distanced drinking games and live music to listen to whilst you dance through the city’s streets. It’s said that the French Quarter and Downtown New Orleans are the most lively spots to catch the party, so don’t miss out.
What will this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations bring you? A pot full of gold and the luck of the Irish is what we’re hoping for. Whatever you do, make sure to follow the safety procedures set in place by the State’s government, and play safe by staying away from large crowds. There are still plenty of ways to enjoy St Paddy’s Day in 2021.