HomeEntertainmentWhen did St. Patrick’s Day parades start tossing cabbages? We have a...

When did St. Patrick’s Day parades start tossing cabbages? We have a theory.

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The participants in Carnival parades have been tossing trinkets since at least 1897.  Beads enter the picture before 1912, and doubloons first jangled onto the streets in 1960.

But when did St. Patrick’s Day parade float riders start tossing cabbages and other vegetables?

To find out, we spend two or three hours scrolling through grainy old newspapers online, skipping from year to year, trying to spot the advent of veggies in parade coverage.

Eureka! We discovered what MAY be the earliest newspaper mention of a flying cruciferous vegetable. Or maybe not.

The question is, should we reveal the date immediately or save it for later in the story to build suspense?

Let’s go with suspense

In 1938, the St. Pat’s parade was considered, by a New Orleans Item reporter, to have been “the greatest parade in two score years.”

It may have been great, but it wasn’t a great source of fiber. No cabbages were mentioned.

That parade was halted during World War II, and apparently never came back.

In 1947, the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade popped up to replace it. By 1965, the Irish Channel parade was described in the papers as the city’s “biggest observance” of the green, Gaelic holiday.







Cabbage was handed out as the Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day parade made its way through the streets of Metairie on Sunday, March 13, 2022.  




Vegetables crop up

In 1975, the Irish Channel parade was rained out. But the newish Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day parade – founded in 1971 – was able to roll.

As a States-Item reporter observed of that parade:

“For three hours, high-spirited and oft-unsteady merrymakers tossed not only the traditional beads and doubloons, but also a veritable vegetable garden highlighted by cabbages, potatoes, and carrots.

“The cabbage throwing got so spirited at the reviewing stand in front of the East Bank Office Building at 3300 Metairie Road, that the absence of casualties was a miracle.”

The 2023 Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day parade is going to be lower carb this year, and lower in vitamin C too. That’s because, for the first…

This was the first mention of the crossover of a St. Pat’s parade and supermarket grocery section that we stumbled upon, but it was probably not the first time veggies were tossed.  Now we had to put the time machine in reverse, to find earlier evidence.

In 1974, cabbages had apparently already appeared in the Irish Channel parade. The Times-Picayune reporter’s account, tells us that the one- to two-pound vegetal cannonballs were expected by some, but were still rather unusual.

There were “a lot of cabbages thrown,” the reporter typed, “Right. Cabbages.”

The Times-Picayune article continued:

“One woman who kept trying to catch one and failed, was handed a head by a young man who didn’t know what to do with the vegetable after he caught it.

“’Oh, you’re an angel,’ the woman said. ‘I was planning to make coleslaw tonight. That’s why I came to the parade.’”

“Another man was hit in the head with a hand-thrown cabbage and almost fell into one of the floats.”







NO.metparade.031422.2462.JPG

Cabbage fills a chair as the Metairie Road St. Patrick’s Day parade made its way through the streets of Metairie on Sunday, March 13, 2022.  




Drifting back in time

As we reversed through the years, we found that …

In 1973, cabbages were mentioned in a report on the Metairie Road parade.

“The day’s merriment was coupled with shouts of laughter and cries of ‘Throw me a cabbage mister.’

“After landing a plump green cabbage, one Italian woman explained, ‘Guess I’m gonna have to learn to make Irish stew.’”

In 1972, in the Irish Channel “parade watchers clamored for doubloons, beads, paper flowers, and heads of cabbage,” according to the T-P.

In 1971, a Times-Picayune reporter noted certain lucky members of the crowd were gifted with a cabbage.

“That’s right, a cabbage.”

Members of the parading club called Gil Meehan’s Green Giants “were handing them out to the favored as status symbols, apparently.”

We guess you could think of such early cabbages as the Muses shoes of the moment.

Homing in on the alpha cabbage

In 1970 we found no mention of cabbages. That doesn’t mean there was no mention of cabbages or that there were no cabbages, it just means we didn’t find any. Would we bet the house on our research skills? Nope!

In 1969 the holiday also seemingly passed without flying cabbage.

In 1968, finally, a cabbage. It was that year that columnist Howard Jacobs announced that “as the (Irish Channel) parade passed on Race near Constance, one citizen on the second floor made a perfect catch of a ‘favor,’ a green cabbage head.”

Merely by calling attention to it as he did, Jacobs tells us it was an unusual occurrence. You can just tell.

That was the earliest note of that most Irish of leafy greens we dug up.

Were there St. Pat’s parade cabbages before 1968? Maybe so. But we didn’t run into a reference from 1960 to 1967. And when we asked our family of social media followers to recall the first time they saw parade cabbages, nobody remembered them before 1970.







Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day Parade

Lexi Whitmore, right, reacts after being given a cabbage as the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade made its way along Magazine Street in New Orleans on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)




A mini tradition

So, with some trepidation, we propose that the cabbage Big Bang took place in the mid-to-late 1960s.

We believe that as the Saints were entering the NFL, the Plaza Tower was being built, and the Meters were becoming world renowned for their funky sound, some inspired innovator hoisted the first sack of cabbages onto a St. Patrick’s Day parade float and established a mini tradition that would persist for more than a half-century, as it distanced New Orleans yet another few inches from Cleveland.

A representative of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade assures us that nobody’s throwing around the ingredients for Irish stew in the Big Apple, “not in the least.” The management of the Boston and Chicago parades have not yet responded to our request for comment.

If you find an earlier reference to New Orleans parade cabbages, or have personal knowlege that pushes the date of the cabbage debut back before 1968, please share it. You won’t hurt our feelings.

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