Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!’

by Lois bolin
Old Naples Historian

Who doesn’t love March 17th – the day that has the whole world thinking green?

This tradition in America began when Irish settlers to the American colonies brought the tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s feast day, but who had the first St. Patrick’s Day Parade? Where was it held? These questions require much discussion- preferable before the third round of Guinness.

The oldest St Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland began in 1917 in County Wexford, but here is America, the first parade began in 1737 or 1762 or was it 1780.

In 1737, the Charitable Irish Society was formed in Boston by the Scots-Irish Ulster Presbyterian colonists, who assisted Irish immigrants through the process of settling into this strange new country. They marked St. Patrick’s Day with a modest parade and closed out the celebration with dinner at a local tavern.


In 1762, the first St. Paddy’s Day parade in New York was held at the Crown & Thistle Tavern in Manhattan. Soldiers from the British Army’s Irish regiments met, drank and toasted King George III before parading through New York with the “playing of fifes and drums” then, no surprise here, headed back to the pub for more drinks. Interesting note: these were Irish Protestant soldiers, as Catholics were forbidden entry into the army until 1778.

Four years after the New York celebration, General George Washington issued an order to give his troops the day off for St. Patrick’s Day in honor of his large (and loyal) contingent of Irish soldiers. Washington noted his trust in these warriors when he said,

“If defeated everywhere else, I will make my stand for liberty, among the Scots-Irish in my native Virginia.” Luckily that did not come to pass.


The March 17th tradition of wearing green is explained in differing ways. While blue was originally the color associated with the holiday, over time green took over in popularity due perhaps to Ireland’s nickname as “The Emerald Isle”, or possibly because of the clover that St. Patrick used in his teachings about Catholicism. Yet, for many, orange has been the color to wear since 1690, when William of Orange (William III),the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, defeated King James II, a Roman Catholic, in the Battle of the Boyne near Dublin.

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