Montreal’s 187th consecutive St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place this year. The oldest and largest St. Paddy’s parade in Canada, the Montreal event is rated one of the world’s top ten parades by National Geographic. Tens of thousands fill the downtown streets each year for a good dose of Irish cheer. The Green Line painted down the center of Ste. Catherine Street signals Montrealers the parade is coming soon, and a giant replica of St. Patrick himself leads the three-hour parade through the downtown core.
Montreal Parade Route
The parade begins at noon on March 20, 2011. It runs along Ste. Catherine Street West, from the corner of Fort towards Phillips Square. In 2010 it was cut short at Aylmer, because of ongoing construction that has also affected Remembrance Day activities in Montreal for the past few years. Plan to arrive early in order to find a good spot to stand, and be prepared for any kind of weather.
Highlights of St. Patrick’s Day in Montreal
The Montreal St. Paddy’s Day parade features the Pipes & Drums of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, along with several other excellent marching bands. Montreal area fraternal organizations always turn out to the parade, notably the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the order of the Thistle, the Shriners and the Knights of Columbus. The parade is a good chance to catch a glimpse of local media and sports celebrities on floats, and to be delighted by the presence of young people from the city’s Irish dance academies, from Guiding and Scouting, from area schools and churches, and from prominent Irish families in Montreal. Bring your camera!
This year’s Grand Marshall will be Roman Catholic priest and radio personality Father John Emmett Walsh. The Chief Reviewing Officer is educator Brendan Deegan. The Parade Queen and Court will be announced at an evening of public speaking and entertainment hosted by the United Irish Societies, on February 5th.
Irish Presence in Montreal
St. Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in Montreal since 1759, when Irish soldiers marked the occasion at the city’s Garrison during the British conquest of New France. Parades have been held in continuity since 1824, including one in the city’s Irish stronghold of Griffintown in 1918 during the controversy over conscription. St. Patrick’s Day parades in Montreal have never been cancelled, during depression, war time, Fenian raids or inclement weather.
United Irish Societies historian Don Pidgeon says Montreal parades have been “a manifestation of the Irish success in the community.” Today they tend to be more of a multicultural celebration than an exclusively Irish happening, with many Montrealers taking on the status of “Irish for a day.” Irish Montrealers are among the top three ethnic groups in the city, accounting for almost 86,000 residents. Along with settlers from France, England and Scotland, the Irish community in Montreal has had a profound effect on the building of the city. The Irish shamrock is one of several symbols displayed prominently on the flag of Montreal, to commemorate that contribution.
Kimberly Calder, “Ten best places to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.” National Geographic Traveler
“Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Parade.” United Irish Societies of Montreal
“St. Patrick’s Parade – Queen’s selection evening.” National Post
“Ethnic origins, 2006 counts (Montreal).” Statistics Canada