Happy Saint Patricks Day everyone. I know this seems like just another New Orleans excuse to party and no doubt we have plenty of those. Mardi Gras just ended 2 short weeks ago and although we are in the middle of Lent and many of us have at least tried to give up drinking and meat on Fridays, St. Patrick has provided a convenient reason to pause all of that. THe Archbishop of New Orleans actually gave everyone permission to eat meat today, I thought that was very nice of him. Fridays during Lent you can find many a fish fry and crawfish boil usually at your neighborhood Catholic Church.
New Orleans has always been a Catholic town, beginning with the first French settlers, but did you know we actually have the largest Catholic Irish population in the South? Irish immigration started in New Orleans in about 1810, but many Irish came in the 1830's to build canals. They were considered "expendable" labor. Indeed somewhere around 8,000 Irish men perished in the building of one canal in New Orleans. The Irish that settled in New Orleans were predominately Catholics and occupied a neighborhood which is now referred to as the Irish Channel.
You know in New Orleans we love a parade and for St. Patrick's Day there are many. We begin a week or two before hand with a practice parade with the Irish Channel St. Pats day club. Its important to practice walking and drinking at the same time in case you forget how! Then a week before St. Pat's day there is the Irish Channel Parade with many marching bands, walking groups and floats. The floats throw you everything you need to make Irish stew except the meat, so watch yourself, cabbages are flying right at your head! You can also catch many other food items, Irish Spring soap, beads, flowers and hats! On St. Patrick's day itself there are numerous block parties held at Irish pubs throughout town. There are also walking and float parades the weekend of St. Pat's day.
After all the festivities we can go back to focusing on our abstinence for Lent for a day or so until St. Joseph's day ( March 19). That will be the subject of a whole other blog post however.