The New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of our city’s greatest traditions, marching for the first time on March 17, 1762 - fourteen years before the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Today it is the largest parade in the world.
The first St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York was held on lower Broadway in 1762 by a band of homesick Irish ex-patriots and Irish military who served with the British Army stationed in the American colonies. This was a time when the wearing of green was a sign of Irish pride and was banned in Ireland. The parade participants reveled in the freedom to speak Irish, wear the green, sing Irish songs and play the pipes to Irish tunes that were very meaningful to the Irish immigrants who had fled their homeland.
For the first few years of its existence, the parade was organized by military units. After the War of 1812, the Irish fraternal and beneficial societies took over the duties of hosting and sponsoring the event. Originally, the Irish societies joined together at their respective meeting places and moved in a procession toward Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Lower Manhattan on Mott & Prince Streets, where the Archbishop of New York would address the crowd before revelers dispersed to celebrate.
In the mid-1800’s, the individual societies merged under a single grand marshal and the size of the parade grew sharply. This was when the Ancient Order of Hibernians became the official sponsor of the parade.
While the parade has always been led by a military unit, for the past 150 years, members of the National Guard’s 69th Regiment known as the “Fighting 69” has proudly led the way up Fifth Avenue. This distinguished group of soldiers is followed by members of various Irish societies of the city, the thirty-two Irish County Societies, various schools, colleges, Emerald societies, Irish-language and nationalist societies.
To this day, the St. Patrick's Day Parade remains true to its roots as a traditional marchers’ parade by not allowing floats, automobiles and other commercial aspects to participate. Every year, the Parade Committee hosts 150,000- 250,000 marchers in front of approximately two million spectators lining Fifth Avenue. The Parade is also televised for four hours on New York’s WNBC Channel 4 to over half a million households and was web-streamed for the first time in 2008.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the 2002 parade was dedicated to the 'Heroes of 9/11, ' honoring police, fire fighters, rescue workers and all those lost who lost their lives. At midday, the entire parade paused for two minutes – and all one and a half miles of marchers turned around to face south towards the “Twin Towers” while Cardinal Egan said a prayer for the victims of 9/11. This was the first time in history, in the City that never sleeps, that one could hear a pin drop on Fifth Avenue – a fitting tribute to the men and women who lost their lives on that fateful day.
The 2002 Parade was the largest Parade to date, with an estimated 300,000 marchers and three million spectators lining Fifth Avenue. This was the first time in history the President of Ireland (Mary McAleese) reviewed the Parade.
Throughout our history, the Parade has been held in honor of the Patron Saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York. The Parade is reviewed each year from the steps of Saint Patrick's Cathedral by the current Archbishop of New York in the same manner as the Archbishop of New York did in the early days of the Parade at the Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Lower Manhattan.
The Parade starts at 44th Street at 11 am and is held every March 17th except when March 17th falls on a Sunday; it is celebrated the day before, Saturday the 16th, because of religious observances. The parade marches up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street all the way up past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and American Irish Historical Society at 83rd Street to 86th Street, where the parade finishes around 4:30 - 5:00 pm.
Former Grand Marshals:
2010 Grand Marshal Raymond W. Kelly
2009 Grand Marshal Michael J Gibbons
2008 Grand Marshal Tommy M Smyth
2007 Grand Marshal Raymond L. Flynn
2006 Grand Marshal Timothy J. Rooney
2005 Grand Marshal Denis P. Kelleher
2004 Grand Marshal Thomas W. Gleason
2003 Grand Marshal James G. O'Connor
2002 Grand Marshal Edward Cardinal Egan