NEW YORK – St. Patrick's Day revelers took a break from worries about the global economy to enjoy a day of shamrock-themed frivolity, dyeing city fountains green, taking icy ocean plunges and crowding sidewalks along parade routes to see and be seen.
Organizers predicted 200,000 participants — and as many spectators — would be along New York's Fifth Avenue for the city's 248th annual march.
Holly Lopez, a nurse from Buffalo, stood in the 12-deep Manhattan crowd wearing a temporary shamrock tattoo, green feather necklace, an Irish flag in her cleavage and — she said — green underwear.
She was part of a group of women who have attended for 20 years.
"We were here before we met our husbands and we'll be here until we're dead," said Lopez's friend, Lucy Hoffman.
One woman held up a sign thanking soldiers. Another sign read: "Is it cold under those kilts?"
At his Manhattan pub, Ciaran Staunton served up an over-the-top Irish breakfast — sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, home fries, fried tomatoes, and baked beans.
The Ireland native also planned to march in the parade with his wife, Orlaith, and two children.
Even with all the revelry, he said his thoughts drifted to his unemployed nephews in Ireland — an unemployed carpenter, bricklayer and electrician who helped push Ireland's jobless rate past 10 percent.
"The economy's in shreds in Ireland," said the 45-year-old pub owner. "People are being laid off as we speak."
Ken and Mary Ferguson, of Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, were on vacation in New York and reflected on the economy as they watched the marchers pass by on Fifth Avenue.
Ken Ferguson, a truck driver, said his work week had been cut to four days, though his employer is doing fairly well.
But on Tuesday they were soaking in the St. Patrick's Day spectacle.
"It's bigger and better than in Ireland," Ken Ferguson said of the parade.
In Los Angeles, a Roman Catholic priest celebrated St. Patrick's Day — and his 90th birthday — by giving away some green.
Father Maurice Chase went to Skid Row with a wallet packed with $20 bills to give to some of the city's neediest residents. About 300 people lined up for the cash.
In cities and towns around the nation honored Ireland with their own signature celebrations.
In Portland, Maine, 75 people greeted the day with an icy plunge in the Atlantic Ocean, charging into the 37-degree water at the city's East End Beach — and celebrating with a Guinness afterward.
In Washington, the White House went green, with water in the fountains on the north and south lawns dyed to mark the national holiday of Ireland.
Many cities with big Irish communities, like Boston and Chicago, had their celebrations over the weekend.
In Indianapolis before dawn, Mayor Greg Ballard and other dignitaries dumped dye in the city's downtown canal, triggering a fountain of green water before the city's midday parade.
And in Savannah, Ga., masses of residents and tourists clad head-to-toe in green crammed the sidewalks and oak-shaded squares for the best parade view.
The New York St. Patrick's Day Parade started in 1762 as a modest foot parade, and still shuns commercial aspects like floats or cars.
The participants were Irish immigrants and military men in the British Army stationed in the American colonies. The British banned Irish customs like dancing and language within Ireland, so the Irish in New York celebrated with glee.