Mardi Gras may be over, but the parades are still rolling! Marching for the 70th year in New Orleans, the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade roll this Saturday, March 11th.
The St. Patrick's Day Parade might just seem like an excuse to keep the party going, but the Irish have long played an important role in the city, so the holiday and it's celebrating are not only a time for revelry, but a time to celebrate the unique Irish heritage in New Orleans.
New Orleans has always held an appeal to the Irish due to its Catholic traditions and safe harbor for anti-British sentiments. Fleeing British persecution, the earliest Irishmen came to the city with the French and Spanish, landing in New Orleans at the end of the 1700s. Immigrant numbers drastically increased in the early 1820's as Irish immigrants were driven from their homeland due to famine.
As New Orleans was a thriving port city, Irish immigrants often found cheap passage to the city. Leaving Europe, American cotton ships unloaded their cargo in Liverpool and captains needed to load their holds up with human ballast for the return trip. Traveling conditions, needless to say, were far from ideal.
Once in New Orleans, living conditions for the thousands of Irish immigrants were also far from ideal. Poor and living in slums, the Irish were particularly susceptible to a series of epidemics that periodically swept the city and many Irish labored on the New Basin Canal, a dangerous project which claimed thousands of lives. Still immigrants came to seek opportunities in New Orleans. Many settled into the riverfront neighborhood on the south side of Magazine Street from the Garden District, in what was originally the city of Lafayette. Today, it is called the Irish Channel and home to the New Orleans St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Those Irish immigrants left lasting marks on the city and many Irish points of interest are still around today. For example, the Gallier House on Royal Street. James Gallier, Sr., and his son James Gallier, Jr., were Irish architects who designed many landmark buildings in the New Orleans, including Gallier Hall on St. Charles Avenue. Gallier House in the French Quarter was designed by James Gallier, Jr., to serve as his residence, and it’s now a charming museum.
Another landmark of Irish influence is the Margaret Haughery statue on Prytania Street. Margaret Haughery was a destitute Irish immigrant who became a prominent New Orleans businesswoman and philanthropist. In commemoration of her good works and impact on the city, this statue of her was erected and it is reported to be the first US statue to honor a woman.
And of course one of the most iconic Irish cultural landmarks to New Orleans is St. Patrick's Church. Founded in 1833, this Gothic church is a now National Historic Landmark and is still the center of Irish life in the city as it was once was for many immigrants.
The New Orleans St. Patrick's Day celebration will begin with mass held at St. Mary’s Assumption Church at noon, and the parade will follow immediately after. For 2017, the parade will begin at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Magazine Street, and the 1,400 expected marchers and about 30 floats will line up toward Tchoupitoulas Street. Riders throw cabbages, carrots and potatoes (in addition to green beads and Moon Pies) to the crowds.
Many Magazine Street bars host block parties, including Parasol's Bar, located in the Irish Channel. On both Saturday, March 11, 2017 and Friday, March 17, 2017 green beer, local flavors and even -leprechauns- crowd the area from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Adorn your green and hit the streets for another great New Orleans celebration!