In 1724, the Charitable Irish Society in Boston held the first Saint Patrick’s Day parade. The group was mostly Protestant immigrants, and they held the parade to honor their home country, in the hopes of creating a gathering and community in Boston. Later, in 1762, Irish soldiers paraded through New York City.
On Evacuation Day, in 1776, Saint Patrick gained more meaning to those of Irish heritage living on American soil. On March 17th, British troops in Boston evacuated the city all at once due to a violent storm. Furthermore, they left peacefully, without any need for cannons or casualties. George Washington called the event an “Interposition by Providence,” and while it was a coincidence, Saint Patrick gained more credibility.
In 1901, Evacuation Day was declared a holiday in the City of Boston. Because of this, the city began hosting a parade in South Boston, which has grown to become the vibrant celebration it is today.
Today, the Southie parade is a celebration of Irish-American culture and Evacuation Day. While the City of Boston hosted the event until 1947, the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council took over and still hosts the event today.
There are plenty of parade floats and bands marching, and the South Boston streets fill up with spectators and families for the festival. While groups can march in the parade by filling out an application, there is currently controversy surrounding the OutVets, the LGBT veterans group that has been banned from participating in the event. While they’ve marched the last two years, this year, the South Boston Allied War Veterans have denied their application because of their rainbow logo, stating that they do not want any representations of sexuality.
As of now, Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have decided to boycott the parade, and it’s likely that many other Bostonians will as well. “We are one Boston. We are so beyond this conversation,” said Walsh.
The South Boston Allied War Veterans are set to vote again on Friday for a final decision.
Boston has historically celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day inclusively, and everyone celebrates at bars and around the city after the parade. Hopefully, this year will be another successful holiday for all.