Cities around the country are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day 2015, with parades scheduled to take place in almost every major city up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Although the actual Irish holiday falls on Tuesday, March 17 -- New York City’s famed St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the country’s largest, falls on that day -- some cities are getting a jump-start on the festivities.

Several parades are scheduled for this weekend. The three largest will be in Boston, Chicago and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Here’s what to know about the St. Patrick’s Day weekend schedule and parade routes.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. took place in New York in 1762. The parade, which honors the patron saint of Ireland in Roman Catholicism, has roots in Irish traditions that were brought to the American colonies by 18th century Irish settlers. The March celebration has since exploded to include millions of revelers across the country.

Festivities often include dancing, music playing, and copious amounts of food and drink. And of course, the wearing of the green, which symbolizes spring, Ireland’s nickname “Emerald Isle,” and one of the colors in the Irish flag. 

SPD-Chicago The Chicago River during the 2009 Saint Patrick's Day celebration. Photo: Creative Commons

Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration dates to 1843, the year of its first parade. Today, it draws about 1 million spectators, making it among the largest in the country. Every year, the Chicago River gets dyed a festive green, a ceremonial salute to the holiday’s Irish roots. The coloring takes place at 9:15 a.m. on parade day.

The festivities begin at noon (CDT) Saturday, March 14. Those planning to attend can expect lots of colorful floats, Irish step dancers, marching bands and bagpipes.

Starting at the corner of Balbo Avenue and Columbus Drive, the parade will continue north to East Monroe Drive. 

SPD-scranton Scranton, Pennsylvania’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is considered one of the largest in the country. Photo: Creative Commons

Scranton St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Scranton, Pennsylvania, might not be one of the first places that comes to mind when thinking about St. Patrick’s Day parades, but the seat of Lackawanna County actually has one of the largest parades in the country in terms of attendance. Its first parade was held in 1962.

Scranton’s parade is scheduled to kick off at 11:45 a.m. (EDT), Saturday March 14, but revelers can start the day even earlier with Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral at 10 a.m.

The parade route begins at the intersection of Mulberry Street and Wyoming Avenue. The procession heads southwest down Wyoming Avenue to Lackawanna Avenue, making a left turn there. It continues onto Jefferson Avenue until Spruce Street, where the parade will turn left again. It ends on North Washington Avenue in front of the Lackawanna County Courthouse. 

SPD-boston An historic reenactment group marches down Broadway during the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts, March 16, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade

In Boston, St. Patrick’s Day is more than a once-a-year festival, it’s a way of life. One-quarter of the city’s population claims Irish heritage, making the holiday among the truest of Irish experiences. The city’s annual parade is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Boston’s parade will get going around 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, March 15. The parade begins at West Broadway and South Boston Bypass and will make its way toward East Broadway. It ends at Farragut Road.