By Katie Engesser
Keeping time to the tunes of old; men, women and children march through a sea of green for over 6 hours on 5th Avenue. They are celebrating their heritage with the oldest parade to their patron.
“Today is St Patrick’s Day,” Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio explained, “It’s a day that New York becomes Irish.”
The show of Irish pride has been going on for over 250 years. The first parade was held in 1762. At the time, wearing the green was banned in Ireland so the Irish sailed to the land of the free, where they revelled in the opportunity to speak their language, wear their colors, and sing an old Irish ditty to the sound of bagpipes.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York, said, “When we Irish came here, we got in! Now sometimes we had a lot of hardships, and adversity and animosity when we got here but that’s why I think the Irish have a tender spot in their heart for the immigrant.”
The theme of this year’s parade revolved around immigration and welcoming the stranger.
“The Irish had a lot to do with establishing New York and building it and keeping it going,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
Even among the thousands lining the streets around St Patrick’s Cathedral, some came from other lands to join the fun. At the heart of the St Paddy’s Day celebrations was the Irish Catholic faith. Before the parade, a mass was held to commemorate the patron saint of the Emerald Isles.
“We’re celebrating St Patrick’s Day and St Patrick and the faith that he brought to Ireland and the faith that the Irish people brought to our church in the United States,” Monsignor Jaime Gigantiello, pastor of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Brooklyn.
Faith, fun, and Irish pride making it easy for Irish eyes to smile.