The first meeting of Irishmen on American soil to honor St. Patrick took place in Boston on March 17th, 1737. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in New York in 1762. Curiously enough, before marching caught on, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with huge breakfasts, held around 2pm in local taverns.
Some of these breakfasts were private affairs, others were hosted by the newly formed Irish Friendly Societies. Often, forty or fifty toasts were made in one sitting!
A report in the American newspaper, ‘The Gazette’ in 1766 states: “St. Patrick’s Day was ushered in with fife and drum. This produced a very agreeable harmony before the doors of many gentlemen of the Irish nation.”
The general tradition of organizing St. Patrick’s Day parades originated in the nineteenth century. After New York, Boston had its first parade in 1812. By the late 1860’s, over a dozen American cities had large St. Patrick’s Day parades. Just 10 years later, the Irish were the majority in population in New York. Not surprisingly, it was largely due to the American example that St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated throughout the world – even in places where the Irish connection is slight, like New Orleans and Puerto Rico.