Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Living Green

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, NEW ORLEANS, LA – My family is Irish – my father ‘off the boat’ via Liverpool. But for whatever reason when I was growing up we never really did that much for Saint Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) except go to church. Now I routinely forget to wear green. I also hate green beer and green-dyed food.  This year I even forgot the holiday, although I was quickly reminded when I exited my New Orleans hotel for a jog only to be bombarded with a sea of green. Canal Street was packed with people of all ages wearing green -- including entire families. Celebrations had gotten off to an early start and would continue well into the late evening. The green crowd had green tie shirts, green dresses, green socks, green hats, green scarves, green masks, green beads, and painted green faces. Some were carrying green Gatorade, or those hard-to-miss green drinks called Hurricanes and Grenades. Fortunately no one was drinking green water.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig commerates Saint Patrick (c. Ad 387-461), a patron saint of Ireland known for bringing Christainity to the country. It's a religious holiday celebrated by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. It’s also an official public holiday in Ireland and celebrated in other countries with large populations of Irish descent. Many major cities in the United States have held Saint Patrick's Day parades since the early 19th Century including Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, and San Fransisco. Chicago even dyes its river green for the occasion.

During the 19th Century New Orleans was the largest southern port of entry for Irish Immigrants. The mix of this history with the city’s Creole heritage means Saint Patrick's Day celebrations have a unique flare and spirit about them. The holiday comes on the heals of Mardi Gras celebrations and unlike other cities the parade happens in the late evening. It is a major tourist event and there is a lot of green alcohol involved. However, celebrations typically remain peaceful so the police presence is rather minimal. 

Two days after the city’s Saint Patrick's celebrations come those for Saint Joseph’s Day where everybody wears red.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs from Saint Patrick’s Day in New Orleans check out Social Shutter’s Facebook page

1 comment:

  1. Fun pictures. Love the woman with the green headscarf. Wonder if Irish 'culture' and the wearing of the green was the first global brand?