March 13, 2012 | New Orleans

St. Patrick's Day in New OrleansIt's festival season in New Orleans, and things are about to get even crazier than usual! Here's a convenient primer on the Crescent City's St. Patrick's Day traditions, with a little history thrown in as lagniappe.

Whether you're Irish Catholic, Irish-Italian, or just have a passion for green beer, St. Patrick's Day in New Orleans is not an event to be missed.

Read on for Erin Go Bragh basics!


With observers in almost every country from Argentina to Zimbabwe, St. Patrick's Day is the most widely celebrated saint's day in the world. It's even a government holiday in Ireland–the national St. Patrick's Festival began in 1996 as a three-day affair, but grew into a five-day countrywide celebration just two short years later.  

Traditionally, St. Patrick's Day is a reprieve from the restrictions of Lent, offering celebrants a chance to let loose before the forty-day period of sacrifice is officially over. 


The holiday honors Patrick, a young Briton who escaped slavery in Ireland only to return and preach Catholicism to his adopted flock. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock, or three-leafed clover, to demonstrate the concept of the Holy Trinity to Irish converts.


In New Orleans, as in Ireland (and like most holidays here), St. Patrick's Day isn't limited to a single 24 hours of celebration. 2012's festivities kicked off on Sunday, March 11, with the Metairie Road St. Patrick's Day parade. The much-loved procession began on Severn Avenue, running down Metairie Road to the parish line, and paradegoers lined up to catch cabbages, carrots, onions, the odd potato, and of course, beads.


Next up is the Parasol's Block Party, running all day this Thursday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Irish Channel bar. Stop by to sample some green beer, Irish food (not to mention Parasol's famous roast beef po-boys) or simply don your brightest green apparel to enjoy a day with friends and (hopefully) great weather!

After Parasol's, take a brief recovery break, and then head over to Molly's at the Market on Friday night for Molly's Irish Parade, which begins and ends at 1107 Decatur. Though the French Quarter might tempt you, remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint — the best is yet to come.

And that "best" comes on St. Patrick's Day itself, with four parades spanning downtown, Mid-City, and the Irish Channel. The streets will be running green with beer by now. Make sure you're wearing your best emerald necklace, seafoam sailor suit, or viridian vest; if caught without any green, you might get a nasty pinch (green eyes don't count. Try not to learn this the hard way).

Find more information on all of the parades and their routes here–and don't forget to stop by the Irish-Italian parade on Sunday!