With deep Irish roots in New Orleans, it's no surprise that St. Patrick's Day is celebrated to the fullest. With green beer, cabbage throwing and folks dressed in green, it is a highlight on the social calendar every year.
New Orleans has always held an appeal for Irish immigrants. Immigration from Ireland to New Orleans first began in the late 18th century. The first St. Patrick's Day celebration in in the city was held in 1809, after which immigration continued more rapidly as Irish were offered jobs building the New Basin Canal in the 1830's. These immigrants settled in a New Orleans neighborhood called the Irish Channel, home to the largest Irish population in the southern United States.
Today, New Orleans has a thriving Irish culture. The St. Patrick's Day celebration rivals its counterparts in Boston and New York, with not one but six parades and festivities throughout the Irish Channel in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The largest parade takes place in Metairie along Metairie Road, where costumed riders throw Mardi-Gras beads as well as cabbages and other Irish ingredients from themed floats. Other parades take place in the Irish Channel and St. Bernard. Since New Orleans also has a significant Italian population, St. Patrick's Day is usually celebrated alongside St. Joseph's Day, two days after St. Paddy's, with joint Irish-Italian parades such as the Louisiana Irish Italian Parade and the St. Bernard Irish Italian Islenos Parade.
However, St. Patrick's Day celebrations do not end with parades. Seas of green overtake the Irish Channel, where several large block parties are hosted. Tracey's, an Irish Channel bar on Magazine Street, hosts a block party on Saturday, March 16 following the Irish Channel Parade on Magazine. Parasol's Bar and Restaurant on Constance Street also throws block parties on March 14, 16, and 17 in the Irish Channel. Another open block party is Molly's at the Market on 1107 Decatur Street in the French Quarter.
There are several bars at which St. Patrick's Day is celebrated as well, including a cluster of Irish bars in Mid-City. Finn McCools, an Irish neighborhood pub is a great place to soak in the Irish culture in New Orleans. The pub even hosts events to benefit the St. Baldrick's Foundation for children with cancer. This year the St. Baldrick's Day event will take place on Saturday, March 23. Other bars in the area include Mick's Irish Pub, Bayou Beer Garden, The Holy Ground, and McNulty's Bitter End. To celebrate St. Patrick's Day in the French Quarter, Pat O'Brien's, Molly's on Toulouse, Monaghan's Erin Rose, Kerry Irish Pub, Ryan's Irish Pub, and Fahy's Irish Pub are all great places to relax and have a pint.
Beyond the St. Patrick's Day holiday, the Irish population has transformed the culture of New Orleans, particularly in terms of architecture and religion. Gallier House is a beautiful example of Irish architecture in New Orleans. Built by Irish-Americans James Gallier Junior and Senior, the building originally served as a private residence and is now a museum. The Old St. Patrick's Church was built in 1840 in the Central Business District for Irish parishioners who felt crowded in S. Louis Cathedral. The St. Patrick's is a Gothic style cathedral, imitating Exeter Cathedral. The St. Alphonsus Church in the Lower Garden District in New Orleans was completed in 1857 to serve the Irish Catholics in the area. Both churches are now National Historic Landmarks. The Dominican Sisters of St. Mary are also from Ireland. In 1860 seven nuns from Dublin to the church in New Orleans, with the looming dangers of Yellow Fever and the Civil War. The sisters have worked to promote charity and education in New Orleans, and the Dominican Sisters of Peace are now a pillar of the local community.
The Irish have had impact on the landscape and economy of New Orleans as well. In the 1830's thousands of Irish-Americans built the New Basin Canal in New Orleans so that the city would have a shipping canal from Lake Ponchartrain to Uptown and the American Sector. Yellow Fever caused the deaths of an estimated 30,000 immigrants, but the canal created an easier route of access for shipping in the city and allowed for greater influx of commerce.
The Irish Cultural Museum located in the French Quarter chronicles these sacrifices and contributions of Irish immigrants in New Orleans. Through documentary viewings, a reading library, artifacts, and interactive kiosks, the Museum aims to educate the city about the profound effects that Irish heritage has had on the city of New Orleans.
For a full list of St. Patrick's Day happenings in New Orleans: http://www.stpatricksdayneworleans.com/.