St. Patrick’s Day highlights New Orleans’ cultural heritage


Decked out in holiday attire, a St. Patrick’s Day celebrator shows off her parade throws. 

Sam Ergina, Online Arcade Editor

Green, orange and white are flooding the streets around the city in the form of beads, flags and paint in honor of the Irish, and their cultural tile in the intricate mosaic of New Orleans.

Once upon a time, New Orleans boasted the largest Irish population in the South, rivaling the more famous Northeastern immigrant landings set up in New York and Boston. The greatest number of immigrants arrived in the 1830s in the Big Easy and established themselves in a neighborhood now known as The Irish Channel, beginning the evolution of one of the many architectural icons of the city: the shotgun house. Today, the neighborhood has a much larger variety of ethnicities and is considered one of the more eclectic neighborhoods in terms of age and income. The Channel’s general boundaries are Magazine and Tchoupitoulas streets and Jackson Avenue and Delachaise Street.

While New Orleans’ reputation to use any excuse to take to the streets and party may undermine the community’s perceived cultural value of St. Patrick’s Day, there’s an aspect of important heritage in the motivation behind the many events thrown throughout the Big Easy. The whole community takes its Irish roots seriously, participating in the parades, bar crawls and other debauchery.

One way New Orleans celebrates March 17 is the same way it celebrates most holidays: parades. These parades, however, deviate from the usual customs seen around Carnival season. Traditional throws tossed in honor of the patron saint of Ireland include cabbages, carrots, onions, Moon Pies and potatoes. It draws a fine line between cliché and classic.

The parades and block parties began last weekend and will continue onto this weekend following the holiday. These parades span both uptown and downtown New Orleans and its suburb, Metairie. Last weekend’s main event was the Irish Channel Parade on Saturday, which featured a collection of beads, vegetation and kisses. Thursday’s main event will be the Downtown Irish Club Parade, whose route will run through the Bywater and French Quarter with pit stops at various bars and clubs. This weekend the Irish will share their celebration with Italian heritage around the city through two parades, honoring two prominent European demographics involved in New Orleans’ historical development.

In addition to the city-wide schedule of opportunities to sport green monochrome outfits, the many Irish pubs around New Orleans hold their own specials for today such as Tracey’s on Magazine Street, Pat O’Brien’s drink specials and live music and The Upper Quarter’s crawfish boil.

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