Party like the Irish: St Patrick’s Day in NYC
February 06 2023
New York has a large and long-standing Irish community, with the first wave of Irish immigrants arriving in the late 19th century.
The Great Famine of 1954 in Ireland forced a huge number of Irish families to leave Ireland in search of a better life. By the 1850s, between 1.5 and 2 million Irish people had left the country – and Irish families made up 25% of New York’s population at the time.
While the percentage is a lot lower these days, making up just over 5% of NYC’s population, they are still one of the largest ethnic groups in the city and Irish influences can be found all over New York.
From McSorley’s – New York’s oldest Irish pub – to the Irish Repertory Theatre and the Tenement Museum to Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, there are plenty of places to experience Irish culture.
Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day is an important cultural and religious celebration acknowledging the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Held on the 17th of March every year, it is a public holiday in Ireland and celebrated in a variety of different ways – historically with church services, Cèilidh (Irish social gathering with music), wearing green, formal banquets, and dances.
Nowadays, Saint Patrick’s Day is more likely to be celebrated with festivals, parades, and day drinking – especially in North America. The idea of drinking on Paddy’s Day, however, is nothing new.
St Patrick’s Day almost always falls during lent, during which many Catholics abstain from alcohol and certain foods such as meat or sweets – but these restrictions have always been lifted on March 17th. As tradition would have it, drinking became an integral part of the day – and is still very much enjoyed at Paddy’s Day celebrations all over the world today.
But how can you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in New York?
Paddy’s Day in New York
Thanks to NYC’s huge Irish influence, there is an abundance of activities and events to enjoy across the city this March 17th.
Want to drink like the Irish? There are hundreds of Irish pubs across New York City to visit on Paddy’s Day for a glass of Jameson’s or a pint of Guinness on tap, and a pub crawl is a great way to visit as many as possible.
If you don’t know where to start, or you’d rather someone do the planning for you, there is an official St Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl right here in the city. Taking place over two days, and with over 50 different bars and pubs participating – it’s not for the fainthearted.
Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t all about drinking! If you’re looking to celebrate with a family in tow, there are still plenty of NYC Irish Pubs that will be hosting family-friendly events and serving great Irish food all day long. Looking for the best Irish pub food in the city? We can help!
Paddy’s Parade – no one does parades quite like New York City
No one does parades like New York City, and Saint Patrick’s Day is no exception. The St Patrick’s Parade in the Big Apple celebrated 260 years of annual parades last year, with the first parade taking place in 1762.
The event takes place along Fifth Avenue between 11 am and 4:30 pm on the 17th of March, beginning at East 44th Street and ending at East 79th Street. Get there early to reserve your spot, but please note there are no public bathrooms along the route.
Irish Arts Center Open Day
Taking place the weekend before St Patrick’s Day, the Irish Arts Center hosts an open day for anyone hoping to learn more about the Irish arts. As well as the usual arts open day events, 10,000 free copies of Ulysses by James Joyce – a novel recognizing Irish Culture - will be given out for free across the center.
Merchant House Museum
Merchant’s House is the first landmark building in Manhattan, and one of the best preserved 19th-century homes in New York City. Originally home to the Tredwell Family, a wealthy family from England and their children, the house was kept in its original condition by the family’s youngest daughter, and a distant cousin turned the house into a museum upon her death.
While the house itself and the 4,500 or so pieces of original art, furniture, and personal possessions are impressive enough, the servant’s quarters in the home are also perfectly preserved and considered “arguably the oldest intact site of Irish habitation in New York City” — Time Out New York. Throughout the 100 years that the Tredwells lived in the Merchant House, it’s thought most of their servants were Irish.
There is little written record of exactly how many women lived on the fourth-floor servant’s quarters, but the 1855 consensus for New York notes four young Irish women, Ann Clark, Bridget Murphy, Mary James, and Mary Smith. It’s thought the entire workforce was replaced at least every ten years, and you can visit the very room they lived in with a guided tour of the building.
Visiting New York this Saint Patrick’s Day? The Hotel Beacon is a quick 20-minute stroll through Central Park to Fifth Avenue and the best spots to catch the St Patrick’s Parade – learn more about our family-friendly rooms.