When Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, he might just as well have been describing Saint Patrick’s Day in New York City.
This Irish tradition has become a cornerstone of American life since the early 19th century’s waves of immigration coming from the old world. So, unless you lock yourself in this Monday, you will be confronted with the overwhelming sea of green everything – from green clothes to green foods to – and especially to – green beer. Whether you like it or not, be ready to Shamrock! What’s this all about?
Saint Patrick was an English missionary who worked in Ireland after having been enslaved there for 17 years. He became a religious and political figure, and a key figure of the Irish culture and heritage at large.
The first Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York City in 1762. At the time, parades were a means for the immigrant community to show their power, both in volume and in extravagance, to the rest of the city. It is a tradition that still endures today, for the various ethnicities of the city. The Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York takes place on Fifth Avenue rom 44th Street to 79th Street, as it has for the past 253 years, and is a display of cultural pride and respect for traditions. The parade starts at 11am and typically ends between 4:30 and 5pm. The crowd then usually disperses into the many Irish Bars and Pubs of the city, which makes for a folkloric people-watching in the subways, streets and restaurants.
Saint Patrick’s Day Everyday
If you are not lucky enough to be in the city for Saint Patrick’s Day, you can still have a true Irish experience in New York, somewhat of an everyday Saint Patrick. To some of us New Yorkers, this may seem like a nightmare. But actually, celebrating Irish culture without the green dye, the traffic or the overwhelming crowd is pretty amazing! One of our favorite spot to do so is New York City’s must-see McSorley’s Ale House in the East Village. It was frequented by Abraham Lincoln, JFK and John Lennon, among others.
This old-timey bar is the longest standing bar in the Big Apple. Entering the place feels like traveling through time, and as you can see from the images below, although painted 100 years apart, the place hasn’t changed much since its opening in 1854.
As a matter of fact, McSorley’s Ale House is so steeped in tradition that several inches of dust hang from the World War I-era turkey wishbones hanging from a chandelier above the bar.
There is something truly comforting about McSorley’s, even for long-time New Yorkers. The key to its success most certainly lays in the consistency of the traditional experience, and the respect of establishment. In a city where bars and restaurants open and close twice as fast as anywhere else in country, McSorley feels like a haven when tradition can be passed down generations after generations!