10 fun facts about St. Patrick’s Day in Montréal

United Irish Societies of Montréal | Montréal St. Patrick's Parade
Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

This article was updated on March 4, 2024.

No matter what the weather, Montréal brings on spring with the biggest parade of the year – some would claim our St. Patrick’s Day parade is the third biggest in the world, but we’ll stick with tried‑and‑true facts and figures on what makes Montréal’s St. Patrick’s Day so great.

United Irish Societies of Montréal | Montréal St. Patrick's Parade


1. The Montréal St. Patrick’s Parade was the longest-running of its kind in Canada – uninterrupted from 1824 until 2019! – until it was forced to cancel during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The parade was actually cancelled once before: in 1918 for various reasons some ascribed to controversies over WWI conscription, but Montrealers defied the city’s orders and paraded nonetheless. The parade will be back this year, in 2024!


United Irish Societies of Montréal | Montréal St. Patrick's Parade


2. In the past, during the three-hour parade, hundreds of floats, marching bands, performers and revellers marched along Sainte-Catherine Street. General attendance ran anywhere from 250,000 to 700,000, depending on the weather, which can range from sun-spangled t-shirt weather to unexpected winter wonderland.

The 199th edition of the Montréal St-Patrick's Parade will be taking place on March 17 on Sainte-Catherine Street.


United Irish Societies of Montréal | Montréal St. Patrick's Parade


3. The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Montréal was held in 1759 by the Irish soldiers of the Montréal Garrison, three years before the start of New York’s famed parade.


4. The first Irish person arrived in Canada in approximately 1661: Tadhg Cornelius O’Brennan came to Montréal in a wave of Irish Catholics escaping war, poor harvests and a severe penal system. Almost two centuries later, Irish nationalist and intellectual Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan was elected to provincial government and Thomas D’Arcy McGee entered Parliament, soon to become a Father of Confederation.


Montreal Irish Monument


5. The Black Rock, or Irish Commemorative Stone, was the first memorial to the Great Famine anywhere in the world. It was placed in Montréal 155 years ago to commemorate the deaths of 6,000 new Irish immigrants who died in a typhus epidemic.


193rd Montreal St Patrick's parade


6. Irish immigration grew over the years, causing several different groups to organize the parade since 1824, including businessman Michael Sullivan of the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal, Montréal’s Irish Catholic parishes, the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the United Irish Societies of Montreal, created in 1928. 


The new flag of the city of Montreal


7. The flag of Montréal proves the prominence of the Irish, depicting a green shamrock in one of the flag’s quadrants, along with a blue fleur-de-lys for the French, red Rose of Lancaster for the English and Welsh, a thistle for the Scots, and a white pine tree for the Indigenous peoples, representing peace, harmony and concord.


United Irish Societies of Montréal | Montréal St. Patrick's Parade


8. The parade not only boasts a Grand Marshal in a black top hat (a flattering green if the Marshal is a woman!), a Queen and a Princess, and the Pipes & Drums of the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment of Canada, but numerous other community groups that reflect the diversity of the city.


McKibbins Irish Pub


9. Family history is recounted and many a tall tale of parades gone by are told in the several authentic Irish pubs (and Irish-for-a-day bars) handily located mere steps from the parade route.


Montréal St. Patrick's Parade


10. We already know how much fun the Montréal St. Patrick’s Day parade is, but don’t just take our word for it: National Geographic voted Montréal’s as one of the top 10 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world and Fodor’s ranks it among the biggest and best too!


Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy

Kevin Murphy serves as Senior Vice-President of the United Irish Societies and on the Board of Directors for the St. Patrick's Society of Montréal.

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