New Orleans is a city that loves to celebrate. Just about any excuse to throw a party will do. And since New Orleans has deep Catholic roots, many of the parties we throw have something to do with the Faith.
Today the excuse is St. Patrick. The Church celebrates the life and holiness of St. Patrick on March 17 each year. And in true New Orleans fashion, we manage to spread out a handful of parties and parades over a couple of weekends.
Last weekend we attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Metairie Road. That parade is our favorite… It even rivals Mardi Gras for us… sort of.
It is a fun parade… and long, lasting about 3 or 4 hours. It starts rolling at noon, and the weather has been absolutely perfect for the last few years. [Check out the video clip below to catch a peek of what it is like!]
The St. Patrick’s Day parades are different than Mardi Gras parades in a few significant ways. First of all the floats are not as elaborate. Most of the floats are what we call “truck floats,” flatbed trailers that are decorated by the riders themselves. Secondly, there are lots of “walking krewes,” groups of folks who walk the parade route. They load themselves down with beads and artificial roses to hand out on the way (the roses are usually accompanied by a kiss on the cheek). And, finally, the “throws” are very unique. In addition to the traditional beads and baubles that are thrown at Mardi Gras, riders in the the St. Patrick’s Day parades will also throw cabbages, lemons, garlic, carrots, potatoes… even bags of red beans! Two years in a row we have come home with boxes full of produce!
Here’s what StPatricksDayNewOrleans.com has to say about the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New Orleans:
St. Patrick’s Day (on March 17th, each year) is celebrated in New Orleans and its suburb in the form of another parade! It’s the perfect season for another celebration … after all, it’s New Orleans, and we love to parade!
Our annual St. Patrick’s Day Parades are considered another opportunity for family and friends to get together and enjoy a day outdoors. It seems as if the entire city is on the street with picnic baskets, umbrellas, and their recreational vehicles…enjoying one of the biggest street parties of the year! Men and women in walking groups from various clubs in the city dress in costumes of green give out flowers, beads, and kisses to lucky parade goers along the route.
Music adds to the festivities with bands and amplifiers in the parade, and walking groups dancing down the street…only stopping to award their beautiful beads and flowers to the lucky parade goers along the route.
Floats and truck floats (those on flatbed trailors created by the riders themselves) respond to the call, “Throw me something, Mister!” Historically, the parade’s most famous throws, are cabbages, carrots, onions…and moonpies! (You may even see a potato or two in the air!)
But why is St. Patrick such a big deal in New Orleans?
I guess the same question could be asked about St. Patrick and the United States. Why is St. Patrick’s Day such a big deal in the U.S.? We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the United States in a very different way than it is celebrated in Ireland. Why is that?
Of course, we’ve all heard that everybody wants to be Irish. But, I’m not sure that’s the reason St. Patrick’s Day has become such a big deal in New Orleans (or in the U.S., for that matter).
New Orleans has a long Irish tradition. Yes, the French and the Spanish were here first. But then there were the Germans and the Irish. And the Itlalians (and Sicilians!). And, believe it or not, each of these ethnic groups had their own neighborhoods… for the most part.
The Irish lived in what is now called the Irish Channel. It’s in between the downtown and the uptown areas of New Orleans. There’s a great (and historic!) pub there called Parasol’s. It’s a great place. Good food… Good beer… You get the idea.
Check out these short video clips to get a taste of why we love the St. Patrick’s Day parades in New Orleans so much!