The Irish in New York City
The Irish community has been one of New York‘s major and important ethnic groups since the late 19th century. Following the Great Famine in Ireland, many Irish emigrated from Ireland. By 1854 between 1.5 and 2 million Irish had sought sanctuary on America’s shores. With scant money, many settled in the port cities where their ships first landed. By 1850, the Irish comprised one quarter of the population in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The influx of Irish was not always greeted with enthusiasm. Signs reading “No Irish Need Apply” were displayed in the windows of many city shops and businesses. Ethnic tension between the Irish newcomers and the “nativist” Americans is popularized in the Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York.
Today New York City has the largest number of Irish-Americans of any city in America. Irish-Americans continue to play a significant and visible municipal role in the Fire Department of New York, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the New York Police Department. The hit television series, Blue Bloods starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, demonstrates the ongoing mystique of Irish-Americans serving in law enforcement.
Saint Patrick’s Day in New York City
Saint Patrick is the most widely recognized patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 17th by the Irish, those of Irish ancestry, and enthusiasts of Irish culture.
New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade predates America as a nation. It took place 250 years ago on March 17, 1762, fourteen years prior to the Declaration of Independence. The inaugural parade was held on lower Broadway by a band of Irish ex-patriots and Irish military who served with the British Army stationed in the American colonies. The wearing of green, a sign of Irish pride, was outlawed in Ireland, and the parade participants rejoiced in their newfound freedom to speak Irish Gaelic, wear the green, sing Irish songs and play the pipes.
Today New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, both secular and sacred, are among the largest and most enthusiastic in the U.S. Across the city’s five boroughs, there are parades and pub crawls and galas galore. The main parade takes place on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue starting at 44th Street at 11:00 am. It is held every March 17th, except when March 17th falls on a Sunday, in which case it is celebrated the day before, Saturday the 16th. The processional heads up Fifth Avenue past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral at 50th Street, past the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 83rd Street to 86th Street, where the parade concludes by or before 5:00 pm.
The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All operating expenses come entirely from private donations. Learn more about the 2011 festivities as well as past parades at St. Patrick’s Day Parade.