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 at least as many spectators - would line New York's Fifth Avenue for the city's 248th annual march.
Holly Lopez, a nurse from Buffalo, stood in the dozen-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, "except for pregnancies," said Pam Dempsey.
"We were here before we met our husbands and we'll be here until we're dead," said Lopez's friend, Lucy Hoffman.
One of the woman held up a sign thanking soldiers. Another sign read: "Is it cold under those kilts?"
Earlier in the day 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.
Even with all the revelry, the Ireland native said his thoughts drifted to his nephews back home - 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.
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 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. More than 300 people lined up for cash.
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 and celebrating with a Guinness afterward.
Before dawn in Indianapolis, dye was poured into the city's downtown canal, triggering a fountain of green water before the city's parade. Fountains at the White House in Washington also ran green for the day.
And in Savannah, Ga., masses of revelers clad head-to-toe in green crammed sidewalks and oak-shaded squares for the best parade view.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg summed up the spirit of the day.
"I can't think of any better time for a parade, when some people are distressed and some people are disappointed and some people are depressed," he said. "People need a pick-me-up, people need to know that we can get through this together."