Saint Patrick’s Day is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Around the world, especially in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day has become a celebration of Irish heritage and culture. The feast day was first celebrated in the 10th Century and has only grown since then! The first known St. Patrick’s Day parade (anywhere in the world!) took place in New York City in 1762, but most of the parades and celebrations we have come to know date back to 1848. Most of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations take place right here in the U.S. and we’ve compiled this guide to show you just how crazy busy these cities are!
New York City – It should come as no surprise that New York City holds the nation and the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade. With between 150,000 and 250,000 participants and countless spectators, the sheer size and scope of this celebration is incredible. Interestingly, no cars or floats are allowed in this parade, and as such, it is made up primarily of dancers and musicians. As previously mentioned, it is the oldest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, predated the United States itself by more than a decade! The parade itself lasts for nearly six hours, and bars and pubs are always packed all day long.
Boston – Accorded to census data, Boston Massachusetts boats the highest percentage of Irish Americans in the county, and they pull out all the stops on St. Patrick’s Day. The first official St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston took place in 1901, and since then has grown to a 3-mile-long event with well over 1 million spectators.
Chicago – A true legend when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, the city of Chicago goes so far as to dye their river green every year! While this originally started as a means of detecting illegally dumped sewage back in the early 1960s, it quickly became a staple of St. Patrick’s Day in the Windy City. People gather early for the annual dying, with some 400,000 + people arriving before 9:00 am to witness this legendary tradition. The parade itself starts at 12:00 and lasts for around three hours!
Savannah – Something of a dark horse on this list, Savannah, Georgia hosts one of the greatest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. Drawing over 300,000 visitors each year, Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration features, a parade, street performers, and countless food and drink vendors! Smaller celebrations begin in mid-February, all leading up to the main event on March 17th! There is even a smaller parade dedicated to the Irish soldiers who were killed in the Siege of Savannah during the Revolutionary War.
Philadelphia – Philadelphia pulls out all the stops when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, spreading the celebration over the course of two weekends, the first being appropriately nicknamed “St. Practice Day”. The city hosts a massive pub crawl and offers free public transportation during St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Dublin – You can’t talk about St. Patrick’s Day without giving a shutout to Dublin, Ireland. The Emerald Isle’s capital city hosts a five-day celebration full of beer and whisky festivals, live music, dancing, and even boat races! But this wasn’t always the case, until about 45 years ago, the holiday was an extremely religious event. Bars and pubs across the country were closed by national law, and it was only in the ‘90s that Ireland began using the holiday to promote tourism and Irish culture around the world.
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- History.com Staff. “History of St. Patrick's Day.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009.
- Smith, Christine. “10 Places to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the USA.” US News, 3 Mar. 2016, 9:00 AM.
- “Top 15 Cities to Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in America.” Trips to Discover.