Je Suis Irish

NOLA turns green with St. Patrick’s Celebrations

The Francophone culture of New Orleans is well known, but some visitors don’t realize the cultural impact of the Irish immigrants on this port city. As early as the late 1700s, a wave of Irish settlers arrived in our beautiful city and the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration occurred in 1809.

The Irish immigrants founded social and benevolent associations to serve as support networks, and through those and their Catholic beliefs, church parishes grew. St. Patrick’s Church, which still holds daily mass, was founded in 1833 so parishioners could attend a mass in English rather than French.

Working digging the New Basin Canal, as stevedores and as housemaids, the Irish found economic opportunities and made New Orleans their home. As the number of newcomers grew they settled further uptown, eventually creating a neighborhood still known today as the Irish Channel.

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If you’re visiting this weekend, the Irish Channel is where you should plan to raise a pint and wear your green.

On Saturday, the Irish Channel Parade will roll at 1:00 p.m. on Jackson Avenue from Tchoupitoulas Street. The route goes up to Magazine Street and then back toward the Mississippi River at Napoleon Avenue.

The Parade consists of mainly walking and social clubs bedecked in tuxedoes, kilts and other Gaelic costumes. The male participants are known to hand out paper flowers in the colors of the Irish flag, and parade watchers “earn” a flower by offering a kiss. Pro tip: a kiss on the cheek is more than sufficient payment.

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My favorite aspect of the parade comes in the form of cabbage. A few floats (far fewer than in a Mardi Gras parade) also participate and the riders throw not only beads, but the vegetables required to make stew. You can catch cabbage, carrots, onions and of course, potatoes. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can plan to cook your dinner that night as long as you haven’t celebrated too excessively.

Beyond the parade, two important bastions of Irish culture hold parties on Saturday—Tracey’s and Parasol’s. Both are bars and restaurants known for good times and excellent po boys. They are conveniently located one block apart, creating a block party along the parade route. Corned beef and cabbage, Irish music, green beer and shenanigans spill out from the bars and onto Constance Street. Parasol’s is starting the party at 10:00 a.m. and going until 8:00 p.m. Tracey’s will start at 11:00 a.m. and will go late into the night.

There are also celebrations in the French Quarter and in Metairie, starting this week and going through St. Patrick’s Day on March 17. Check the website for details on all the events celebrating all things Irish. Erin go Bragh!

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