The Irish in Philadelphia first celebrated St. Patrick's Day in 1771, five years before the Declaration of Independence was signed ! The first documented St. Patrick's Day Celebration Parade in Philadelphia was held in 1771, marking 250 continuous years of celebrations. The current parade, which is hosted by the St. Patrick's Day Observance Association, was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1952.
Philadelphia's St. Patrick's Day Parade is a long-standing event of great civic pride. This Delaware Valley event is the largest Philadelphia Parade by number of participants, approximately 20,000. More than 200 groups are represented in the parade including: Marching bands, dance groups, youth groups and Irish Associations. Thousands of spectators line the Parkway to enjoy the Parade each year.
Irish Americans have celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Philadelphia since their arrival in America. George Washington, a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, actively encouraged Irish American patriots to join his colonial army. Over the years, these celebrations reflected the times with several themes emerging;- religious, patriotism honoring military service, remembrance of the political struggles in Ireland and a celebration of Irish culture. The common theme remains honoring St. Patrick's work.