The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City is something out of a horror film. Traffic stands still for crowds of loud drunks leaking a colorful array of body fluids. Grand Central and Penn Station close their bars for the day, and Metro North, NJ Transit, and the LIRR have to ban alcohol on the trains. Although the holiday is wonderful, someone should take a shillelagh to the parade’s dark side.
Before I was aware of this, I really looked forward to the day I could celebrate my Irish heritage and see the parade from the sidewalk. As a high school marching band geek, I marched in many Fifth Avenue parades. If that sounds fun, it’s because parts of it were: missing school to participate in a huge NYC tradition was fantastic. The hard part was weighing 115 pounds and being a drummer. Drums aren’t the lightest; a bass drum is no piccolo. Playing non-stop for two miles is rough. NYC parades are marching band marathons. So, next time you see a parade, stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and say a prayer for all the small drummers on Fifth Avenue.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a city gem. The entire upper half of the church was made of wood and plaster and painted to look like marble to save money after the Civil War (it’s unsurprising that the church recently underwent a major renovation). Outside of Italy, no other cathedral has ever hosted more popes. St. Patrick’s truly is America’s parish. St. Patrick’s Day might wreak havoc on NYC, but the cathedral has been a beacon of hope for more than five million visitors each year.
If you braved St. Patrick’s Day in NYC this year, I’ll leave you with this traditional Irish blessing:
May Fifth Avenue rise up to meet you
May the vomiting be always behind your back
May the mysterious steam be warm upon your face
and the drunks fall soft upon your block