While St. Patrick’s Day is widely celebrated in America, many people aren’t familiar with its roots and history in Boston. The holiday certainly wasn’t created here, but according to Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan, a Boston-Irish historian, the first parade was held here in 1724. Almost a century later, Ireland experienced the Potato Famine, creating huge waves of immigration to America. At the time, Boston’s port was one of the largest immigration hubs. Before the 19th century was over, the Irish became the largest ethnic group in the city. Although it’s difficult to measure ethnicities today, as many people have an assortment of ancestries, it’s clear that the celebration of Irish culture has remained so strong. St. Patrick’s weekend in Boston is always guaranteed to have bagpipes in the streets, bar crawls, live music, and all around lively celebrations.
While the holiday is obviously a great time to enjoy yourself and the celebrations around the city, there also historically have been a lot of politics surrounding it. Many Irish-Americans took the holiday in the 20th century as an opportunity to protest England’s occupancy of Ireland. Additionally, past presidents including G.W. Bush and JFK have made appearances at the Boston parades. Irish-Americans were oppressed when they first immigrated, and I think St. Patrick’s Day is an important reminder that being accepting and welcoming to all immigrants is crucial. It’s a wonderful time of celebration and fun with friends, but it’s crucial to remember the history of the holiday in Boston specifically, and how it has always been political and a space for inclusivity.