Louisiana is home to over 400 festivals, good food, fun times and history like only the Deep South can provide.
While its most familiar city, New Orleans (NOLA) may be known for the celebrations before Lent, referred to as Mardi Gras, NOLA should also be a festive destination for St. Patrick’s Day. Given the enduring presence of Catholicism, it is no surprise there is a strong Irish history in the Big Easy.
An early wave of Irish immigrants, fleeing British persecution at the end of the 1700s, arrived in NOLA and made it home. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1809 and throughout the 19th century, Irish social and benevolent organizations were formed, and Irish theater thrived, according to the New Orleans visitors bureau. Immigrants driven out of their homeland by the potato famine started arriving in significant numbers between the 1820s and 1840s.
Irish immigrants often found cheap passage to New Orleans because cotton ships unloading in Liverpool, filled their holds with human ballast for their return trip. Living conditions didn’t improve much for these weary travelers once they arrived in their new homeland. Home was now in the slums for thousands of Irish immigrants, and they were exposed to the epidemics that periodically swept the city. Many Irish labored on the New Basin Canal, a dangerous project that claimed thousands of lives.
Still more arrived, and to this day St. Patrick’s Church, founded in 1833, stands proud – with services in English, not French, as it’s always been.
On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans becomes a week-and-a-half of parades and block parties. For a full list of events click here.
Bring the flavors of Louisiana home with its own Jay Ducote, former Food Network Star contestant, and Baton Rouge chef. His Irish Beef Stew recipe uses his own Coffee Chile Rub, a barbecue rub with brown sugar, smoked paprika, and other savory spices that will add heat to this usually bland dish. Find the recipe for his Irish Beef Stew here.