Well it's that time of year again, MARCH!!! My second favorite month of the year next to December for obvious reasons, but yes we are back in March and that means in about two weeks we will be celebrating Saint Patrick's Day once again. A holiday celebrated internationally, it began as a religious celebration in the seventeenth century to commemorate the life of Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Known as the "Feast Day", it always took place on the anniversary of his death on March 17th 461 AD.
In the US, there are strong ties between the Irish and the fire service community. Back in the infancy of this great country, there was an incredible influx of Irish immigrants, and jobs were nearly non existent. Store owners would have signs on their window that read "NINA" meaning 'No Irish Need Apply". The only jobs available to Irish and many other immigrants were the most dangerous jobs like Police and Firefighters. It wasn't uncommon to have several firefighter's die at a fire in those days and carrying on with the tradition of the Irish, the bagpipes were played at the funeral services, hence why the bagpipes or the Pipes and Drums, are known as the music or heart beat representing the fire service.
Anyway, as a firefighter I am proud of this Irish blood running through the veins of the fire service, even though I am not Irish myself, but I did find the bagpipes fascinating and taught myself how to play about 12 years ago now. In my younger years, watching the bagpipe bands march through the streets, or play at a promotional ceremony or funeral really hit me some place deep in my heart and I believe it is one of the best ways to give back to the fire service, by honoring the service in all ways through playing the bagpipes.
Well how does this all relate to Saint Patrick's Day? Oh and I don't want to forget, please refer to it as it should be ... it is Saint Patrick's Day, not st. paddys or any other abbreviation .. some people take this serious haha. Anyways, being a bagpiper and celebrating this glorious holiday I have had the opportunity to travel the states and march in some of the greatest parades ever and celebrate this holiday in some amazing places which I would love to share with you all in case your looking for a great Irish vacation here in the states. Here are my top 5, and I will go on to list a few more that have been rated as top travel destinations for this Irish event.
First is Chicago. Chicago is gorgeous to begin with but the people are equally amazing. When they dye the river green it really shows the Irish pride. The weather is still a bit chilly and I was blessed with a little snow fall while marching this parade. Held on the 14th, it is a good sized parade length, but what sets this apart from some others is the whole city involvement. Post parade there are plenty of Irish pubs nearby that you will find packed to the gills till last call.
Second is New York, held on the 17th, the New York parade is amazing. With strong Irish routes you can feel, it is one parade you must make at some point in your career. Only one snag, if you plan on marching in your class A, you may find it difficult unless you have a connection, nonetheless a fantastic time.
Third on my list is Savannah GA. Celebrated on the 17th, a beautiful location and a long parade route, with a kiss of Southern hospitality, noted as one of the most popular you will find a diverse crowd with multiple universities in the area. Marching in this parade is an honor and the Local Firefighters are extremely hospitable welcoming all to march alongside them in brotherhood. A favorite of mine is the tradition they have, where the ladies wear deep red lipstick and kiss all the men in uniform. You may find yourself covered in red lipstick by the end of the parade. A beautiful downtown area, loaded with watering holes, the after party is incredible. Just try to pace yourself, one time after the parade, I went to my room to charge my phone and woke up the next morning, HA!
Fourth would be Boston, another incredible parade and when I say they take this day serious I mean it. I believe they have two parades, the one I marched in was the "Southie" parade and it was absolutely incredible. The area was surrounded by Irish heritage and the people were also all so welcoming. We were invited to a pancake breakfast at one of the fire houses and marched in the parade. One unique part of this parade was that the whole community opened their houses to little parties and as you went along you stopped by each house for a drink and celebration. It was something I had never experienced before.
Fifth on my list is Delray Beach Florida. Sunny South Florida, right on the beach in Delray, celebrated on the 14th, the city comes alive for the holiday. Marching over the waterway bridge down the parade with blue skies, palm trees and the sun beaming on your face is gorgeous to say the least. The crowd is enormous and the parade is known for showing their pride in the fire service. Marking each intersection you will find two aerial apparatus flying the Irish and American flags. Loaded with apparatus and a sea of marching fire service personnel it is a fantastic parade. Down Atlantic avenue there is no shortage of bars and restaurants to make a day of the festivities. Saint Patrick's Day on the beach? I say YES.
Some other noteworthy parades and celebrations: Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Kansas City Missouri, Houston Texas, and Cleveland Ohio.
I hope this gives you some insight to help your planning and I hope you all stay safe. Keep pace, drink some water from time to time, don't drive and write down your hotel address and room number in case you forget.