The History of St. Patrick’s Day Parades

Millions of Americans are digging in their dressers and closets for a suitable piece of green clothing to wear for tomorrow’s great tradition of St. Patrick’s Day.

Many will stream down to their local St. Patrick’s Day parade – is your town having one?

According to there are over 100 parades in the United States to celebrate this tradition, which began in 1762 when Irish soldiers who were serving for the British armed forces paraded through the streets of New York City to celebrate their Irish roots.

In 1848, several Irish organizations in New York decided to band together and have one parade. The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade now stands as the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest, drawing over 150,000 participants.

It is estimated that over 3 million people line the streets of the 1.5 mile route for the parade that lasts 5 hours.

Other large parades around the country include Boston (23.9% of the Massachusetts population is of Irish decent, the highest percentage of a state in the nation), Chicago (where they use vegetable dye to turn the Chicago River green), San Francisco, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Dublin, Ohio, and Savannah, Georgia (complete with green grits – yum!). These parades include 10,000-20,000 participants and anywhere from 200,000 to 825,000 spectators.

Parades are held around the world including Dublin, Ireland (of course), London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. What’s the only known St. Patrick’s Day parade that crosses state lines? The Quad Cities St. Patrick’s Day Interstate Parade from Rock Island, Illinois across the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa.

On a local note, this year is the golden jubilee for the Denver St. Patrick’s Day parade. Happy 50th!


Marijo Tinlin is the Editor in Chief of Family First, one of the oldest family-oriented websites on the internet. She is also the author of a book about patriotism and teaching our children to love this country called “How to Raise an American Patriot, Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American.”  It features 13 interviews with patriotic Americans including Ed Meese, Erick Erickson and Jackie Gingrich Cushman. It’s available at

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