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History of Saint Patrick's Day in the United States

Irish-American immigrants brought Saint Patrick's Day to the United States. The first civic and public celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in the 13 colonies took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1737. The first celebration of Saint Patrick's Day in New York City was held at the Crown and Thistle Tavern in 1756. In 1780, General George Washington, who commanded soldiers of Irish descent in the Continental Army, allowed his troops a holiday on March 17. This event became known as The St. Patrick's Day Encampment of 1780.

Today, Saint Patrick's Day is widely celebrated in the United States by Irish and non-Irish alike. Many people, regardless of ethnic background, wear green-colored clothing and items. Traditionally, those of Irish ancestry who are caught not wearing green are pinched.

Many parades are held to celebrate the holiday. The smallest of these, World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade, is said to take place in Hot Springs, Arkansas in the United States annually held on historic Bridge Street which became famous in the 1940s when Ripley's Believe It or Not designated it "The Shortest Street in the World." Boulder, Colorado claims to have the shortest parade, which is also less than a single city block.

The New York parade has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world, outside Ireland. In 2006 more than 150,000 marchers participated in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, and social and cultural clubs and was watched by close to 2 million spectators lining the streets. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment. New York politicians - or those running for office - are always found prominently marching in the parade. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once proclaimed himself "Ed O'Koch" for the day, and he continues to don an Irish sweater and march every year, even though he is no longer in office.

The parade is organized and run by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. For many years, the St. Patrick's Day Parade was the primary public function of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

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