In the 1830’s, construction began on the New Basin Canal. Many Irish immigrants were hired to work the project and settled into the dock area between the French Quarter and the Garden District, an area now called the Irish Channel.
The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club was established in 1947 and has held a mass and parade for 60 years. For more info, visit:
The parade is held on a weekend, no matter when St. Pat’s day falls, and is more a community funfest than a delving into Irish culture. Tuxedoed men pass out silk flowers in exchange for kisses. Float riders throw beads as well as cabbage and carrots. I even caught some ramen noodle soup. The idea is that you catch ingredients to make traditional Irish dishes, like corned beef and cabbage, after the parade.
In addition to the tuxedos, many men wear kilts. As usual, the men seemed happy to find an excuse to wear a skirt. In fact, people here seem thrilled by any excuse to paint their faces, don wigs or hats, and costume up to the hilt. I’ve met more than one person with a “costume closet.” Yes, in a city where closets are not even a given, people (men too) will dedicate an entire closet to sequins, feathers and flights of fancy.
For a woman who spent the last few Thanksgivings as a flower, a silent film star and a Native American, this place is heaven. And considering that I’ve made a living dressing up and pretending to be other people, it’s humbling to see how much more a part of the culture costumes are here than in Los Angeles.