Starting in 1845, the year the potato blight hit Ireland, nearly 2 million Irish refugees fled their famine-stricken homeland and found their way to the United States. About 37,000 Irish settled in Boston alone. By 1890 there were 4.8 million Irish (including second-generation), or 13% of the population living in the United States.
Along with their labor and culture, Irish immigrants brought what is now a major tradition in this country. March 17th, historically celebrated as the Feast of St. Patrick, became a day for Irish immigrants to honor not just the Saint, but their homeland.
As early as 1766, Irish soldiers in the British army held the first official St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, and with the influx of immigrants in the next century, small St. Patrick’s Day gatherings held by Irish civic organizations grew into large celebrations of Irish heritage.
Now, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, and definitely a cultural staple across the United States, especially in cities that saw large Irish influxes in the 1800s.
To compile a list of the best St. Patrick’s Day events in the country, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed dozens of events in large cities and small towns across the U.S., rating them on participant numbers, crowd size, and unusual highlights.