The first parade honoring St. Patrick wasn’t in Ireland

The modern tradition began over 3,000 miles from the Emerald Isle.

For centuries, the Hibernian holiday we now associate with green beer and public merriment was celebrated with quieter cultural customs. Traditionally, the Irish observed the death of the island’s patron saint on March 17 by attending a morning Mass and gathering for a family feast.

Finally in 1601, over a thousand years after the purported death of St. Patrick in 461 A.D., things started to change but not in Europe. Across the Atlantic, in Spanish Florida, Ricardo Artur, the colony’s Irish vicar, organized the world’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade within the borders of what is now St. Augustine. Farther north, in Britain’s American colonies, a 1737 demonstration took place in Boston, followed by a 1762 procession through New York City. As immigration to the New World swelled in the 19th century, these organized spectacles became symbols of solidarity for Irish immigrants and their descendants.

It was not until the 20th century that the American cultural export reached Ireland, when Dublin threw the country’s first official celebration in 1931.