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

By Alison Durkee

New York will feel the luck of the Irish this month, as St. Patrick’s Day brings a slew of Irish cultural events to the city. Switch up your St. Paddy’s festivities or keep the holiday going all month with these Irish-themed events.

The centerpiece of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations is, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will take place this year on March 16. The parade will travel up Fifth Avenue, going from 44th Street to 79th Street, and will kick off at 11am. On St. Patrick’s Day itself, head to Brooklyn for the borough’s own parade, which travels through Park Slope. Brooklynites wanting a more alcoholic celebration can skip the bars and instead head to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where on March 17th BLDG 52 and Kings County Distillery will be offering a special Irish-themed tour and tasting centered on the distillery and the neighborhood’s Irish whiskey-fueled history.

New Yorkers can also head to the Irish Arts Center March 10 for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Open House, which includes a full day of family-friendly events and activities centered around Irish culture. On March 15, the Arts Center will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with their annual Book Day, which distributes free books by Irish writers to New Yorkers at pop-up stations located throughout the city. Of course, for the Irish Arts Center, celebrating Ireland is a year-long affair; enjoy the organization’s ongoing programming this month with upcoming performances like the variety show Muldoon’s Picnic (March 11) or the comedy night Sundays at Seven (March 24).

Carnegie Hall will also offer a taste of Irish culture this spring, as their wide-ranging Migrations festival includes a look at Irish immigration to the U.S. Celebrate Scotch-Irish music in America at an April 12 symposium at the Glucksman Ireland House. Learn more about the friendship between Irish writer William Butler Yeats and Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore at an afternoon event March 16; or look back on John Cage and Merce Cunningham’s Irish-themed collaboration, which was based on Finnegan’s Wake, at an event March 14. Those who have some Irish blood in them can also get an introduction to tracing their genealogy at special events on March 25 and 26. On March 28, learn more about the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary for the Protection of Irish Immigrant Girls, which took care of almost 100,000 female Irish immigrants to New York from 1883 to 1908.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Performing arts fans can head to the American Irish Historical Society, where the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin will be performing March 13. On March 10, the spoken-word series Read650 will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Straight Outta Ireland, an evening of Irish-themed storytelling at City Winery. Theatergoers can make a trip to the Irish Repertory Theatre, which continues its ongoing commitment to Irish theatre this spring with a production of Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman. Irish history has also found a home on Broadway this season with Jez Butterworth’s widely-acclaimed new play The Ferryman, which focuses on one family’s lives in Northern Ireland during The Troubles in 1981.

Other events throughout the city will offer a deeper look at New York’s Irish roots. The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden will present a special lunchtime lecture on Irish New York March 8, and the Merchant’s House Museum will mark St. Patrick’s Day with guided tours paying tribute to the Irish immigrants who worked as servants in the historic home. The museum will also offer an illustrated talk March 19 on 19th century Irish immigration to NYC. For those who’d rather learn the city’s Irish history by hitting the streets, join Big Onion Tours March 16 for a tour of the former “Little Ireland” district on the Lower East Side. 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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