The St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of New York's oldest and largest parades.
St. Patrick's Day (March 17), is the Christian feast day which celebrates Saint Patrick (387-461), the patron saint of Ireland
The first civic and public celebration of St. Patrick's Day in the American Colonies took place in Boston in 1737. The first St. Patrick's Day celebrated in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756. Since then the New York celebration has become the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the world. The parade itself dates back to 1762, and in 2003 more than 150,000 marchers participated, including bands, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, social and cultural clubs. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and it attracts roughly 2 million people.
The New York parade has been dogged with controversy in recent years as its organisers have banned Irish gays and lesbians from marching as a group. Gay rights groups have fought in court to obtain the right to march alongside other organizations, and there have been calls in Ireland (which, since 1992, has some of the most liberal gay laws in the world) for a boycott of the parade. The gay groups and their sympathisers would lie down in the middle of the street at the start of the parade route, and would be arrested when they refused to move; in the late 1980s such arrests averaged several hundred per year, but had dwindled to a dozen or less annually by the early 2000s. A tradition has begun in Queens, New York of organizing a parade the week before the official St. Patrick's Day parade which is open to all organizations wishing to march.