Did you know that the only two places in America that recognize Saint Patrick’s Day as a legal holiday are Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and Savannah, Georgia?
In Savannah there’s a long history of honoring St. Patrick, who was credited for bringing Christianity to Ireland. According to the Hibernian Society of Savannah, which was organized in 1812 to help Irish immigrants, its first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was in 1813 and its first parade was in 1824.
I have been to many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Savannah since I attended high school in the 1970s. Being from Garden City on the west side of Savannah, and growing up Southern Baptist, I knew it was my responsibility to attend these parades. (I think most people say they are Catholic and Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Go figure.)
When I attended the University of Georgia, I met many other people from Savannah, including the 48th Street Tigers, the Circle M crowd and people who graduated from the two local Catholic high schools, Benedictine and St. Vincent’s. I continued to take part in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Savannah, and offered my college friends the opportunity to experience them, too. We would always be the first group down in Savannah along the parade route and the last ones to leave. It was a long day and even longer night. Through those celebrations, we were part of Savannah’s history. My friends and I still reminisce about the St. Patrick’s Parade back in the day.
When I had children, their mother and I took them to East Broad Street by the Pirate’s House restaurant in downtown Savannah. We would get there just in time for the floats, bands and Irish families to walk by. I began to recognize some of the people who are now leaders in the Hibernian Society. I see that St. Patrick’s Day is on a Friday this year. I’m sure Savannah will be wide open with all the celebrating that comes with it, from early morning to very late in the evening this March 17.
I’ll be at the parade, too, appreciating this year’s celebration and reminiscing about the many that have passed. And I’ll be thinking about how the parade seems to get longer each year — or am I just getting older?