The Luck of the Irish: St. Patrick’s Day Alternatives in NYC

By Alison Durkee

NYC will be getting a bit of the luck of the Irish this weekend. Make some plans to celebrateand enjoy Irish culture all month longwith these upcoming events.

The centerpiece of NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will kick off at 11am on 44th Street before making its way up Fifth Avenue to 79th Street. Brooklynites can also enjoy their own parade one day later on Sunday, March 18, which will head down Prospect Park West starting at 1pm.

Get ready for your St. Patrick’s Day libations by crafting your own beer mug at a workshop run by Brooklyn Glass, which will take place on the 17th at 11am. For a more historical twist on the holiday, head to the Merchant’s House Museum, where they’ll be putting the spotlight on the Irish immigrant domestic servants who once worked at the historic home. Bookworms, meanwhile, can spend the day taking advantage of the Irish Arts Center’s Annual Book Day. The arts center will set up a dozen pop-up stands throughout the city dedicated to distributing free books by Irish and Irish American authors, as well as authors from the Caribbean islands.

Ireland is known for its contributions to the worlds of art and literature, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate the country’s rich culture even outside of March 17. In addition to its Book Day, the Irish Arts Center will continue to offer looks at Irish culture this spring, including an introductory workshop on hard shoe Irish dance on March 31 and a screening of the Irish-made animated feature film The Breadwinner at the Museum of the Moving Image that same afternoon. Film fans can also explore how Irish-Jewish relationships have been explored in American film at a talk on March 29. On March 15, the Irish Consulate will host an event with the authors of the newly released compilation book Family Histories of the Irish Revolution, which will discuss Ireland’s Easter Uprising and how Americans contributed to the Irish Freedom cause.

Irish culture is also always in the spotlight at the Irish Repertory Theatre, which will continue to celebrate the country with its slate of performances this spring. Currently running at the theater is Three Small Irish Masterpieces (through April 22), a trio of one-act plays from the turn of the century that were part of an initiative to increase national pride and identity through Irish theatre. Starting March 30, iconic actor Matthew Broderick will take to the Irish Rep’s stage for Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer, which earned a 2008 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. The theater will also host two one-night only performances this spring, as Irish violinist Greg Harrington performs on May 1 and Irish scholar and former director Christopher Fitz-Simon reads from the letters of celebrated director Tyrone Guthrie at an event on April 24.

Outside of the city’s Irish cultural institutions, Irish history and the stories of the immigrants who came from Ireland to settle in New York can be found all around the city and its streets. On March 18, Big Onion Tours will host a look at the former “Little Ireland” district on the Lower East Side with their Irish New York walking tour. The role the Irish Mob played in New York’s seedier underbelly will be the focus of a walking tour of Hell’s Kitchen, which runs throughout St. Patrick’s Day weekend and on Saturdays. New Yorkers looking for a tour that keeps them out of the cold, on the other hand, can head to the Merchant’s House Museum, which will host a special “Spirit of the Irish” Candlelight Ghost Tour on March 16. The Tenement Museum offers daily “Irish Outsiders” tours focused on the tenement’s former Irish residents.

Irish Famine Memorial: Ludovic Bertron -- Flickr

Irish Hunger Memorial: Ludovic Bertron — Flickr

Any time of day, until night falls, you can visit a facsimile of the land those early émigrés left behind at the Irish Hunger Memorial. It’s a rural half-acre in the middle of the Financial District, complete with stone cottage, gone-to-seed potato fields and stones from all over Ireland. Paneled text describes Ireland’s Great Famine, with parallels to global hunger zones today.

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