Montréal’s Irish heritage runs long and deep. The vast majority of Irish immigrants arrived here in the first half of the 19th century, and have played a major role in shaping the city’s social, cultural, political and religious life ever since. This coming March 19, people will be flooding the streets of downtown to watch Montréal’s much-anticipated St. Patrick’s Day Parade in celebration of the Irish community’s contribution to Montréal. Here are a few nuggets of information about this hugely popular celebration, which draws crowds of close to half a million.
The celebrations actually last over a month.
Sure, they culminate with a giant parade, but Irish season actually starts at the beginning of February, and includes church masses, charity balls, the Flag Raising and the selection of the Queen and Court (otherwise known as princesses).
The Queen and Court are chosen in a public speaking contest.
This is not a beauty contest. The Queen and Court, key figures in the parade, battle it out in a public speaking competition where they must answer questions on Irish history. Eloquence and brains win the day. As they rightly should.
There is a spread of nearly a century in the age of participants.
Young and old alike flock to the festivities. From infants in their parents’ arms to this year’s Irishman of the Year, Andrew Fogarty, who will walk the parade route at the age of 97, it’s a truly generation-spanning get-together.
It’s the longest consecutive running St Patrick’s parade in the world.
There was nearly a hiccup in 1918, when the regular parade was cancelled because of fear of military conscription agents. But that didn’t deter the Irish groups in Griffintown, the city’s Irish stronghold where no conscription agents dared enter. They flouted the crackdown and marched on, thereby ensuring a time-honoured tradition that has been running strong since 1824.
This is a really, really, Irish province.
Yes, Irish blood is in our DNA. There are almost as many Quebecers with Irish heritage as the entire population of Ireland. According to the 2011 census, 225,000 Quebecers self-identified as Irish and about 40% of Quebecers have Irish heritage—which works out to 4 million people. (FYI – the population of Ireland is 4.6 million).
St. Patrick’s Society is the oldest fraternal organization in Canada.
Organizations like the United Irish Societies of Montreal (UIS) who organize the parade and many charitable endeavours, and the Erin Sports Association, are purely philanthropic. They’ve been around for 85 years, have only been keeping track of their donations to the community in the past 30 (which is over $500,000).
Our St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the most inclusive in North America.
This merry march is a true reflection of Montréal’s openness and multicultural make-up. There are contingents from many of Montreal’s cultural communities in the parade, including a Greek contingent, a Ukrainian contingent – even Caribbean marchers that play Irish tunes on steel drums!
There are Vikings in our parade.
Told you it was inclusive. The Vikings never conquered Ireland but for the last three years, the organizers have allowed them to conquer the parade. They seem to be very friendly.
Parade marshals work tirelessly on parade day.
Parade marshals are the people in black top hats and Irish flag arm bands, scattered throughout the festive procession, ensuring it runs smoothly. Regardless of the weather, they pound the pavement from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. When their duties are finished, they make their way to the back to walk as a group. Give them a hand because without them the parade wouldn’t happen.
United Irish Societies, organizers of the parade, are experts at what they do.
The United Irish Societies are seasoned pros, and have helped re-establish and start parades in Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec, Hudson, Chateauguay and other cities over the past 30 years. They even provided support and volunteers to the Montreal Children’s Hospital when they had a parade from the old hospital to the new. What a nice crew!
Find out more about about Montréal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 19 on social media. Follow @uismtl on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn and use the hashtags #MTLStPaddys & #IrishSeason – they’ll share when you post using them!
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