SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -One of Savannah’s oldest St. Patrick’s Day traditions was celebrated on Sunday. The Celtic Cross mass, procession and ceremony is similar to the city’s original original St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the early 1800s.
Father Tom Murphy summing up the significance of Sunday’s Celtic Cross mass, ceremony and procession in one sentence: “Welcome to the most beautiful celebration we share as Savannah Irish Catholics.”
Savannah’s Irish started the day entering the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. This year’s Grand Marshal Jerry Counihan and his wife were welcomed with standing applause from those overflowing the pews before they sat with their family in the front row for a mass with special meaning.
“It is truly a day when Irish families and those so inclined join together in faith and love to honor our ancestors who bravely sought a better life in the United States,” said Father Murphy.
The tribute to the city's orginial Irish families continued as the grand marshal processed out of the cathedral to lead Savannah's Irish societies to the celtic cross in Emmett Park on Bay Street.
This day is likely most similar to what Savannah’s original St. Patrick’s Day parade looked like in 1824.
“It is the original way the parade was done," said former Grand Marshal Jimmy Ray. "We had mass in the Cathedral and processed down here to Emmet Park.”
At the celtic cross, they remembered and paid tribute to those who came before.
“Our early forefathers and the difficulties they went through to come to this country looking for a new world and finding a lot of agony and misery, fighting for their way to the top or the middle and protecting their families," said Counihan. "So this is really honoring our ancestors.”
Counihan felt that family connection deeply in Emmet Park on Sunday surrounded by generations of family, both in person and in memories.
“My dad is with me because his tree is right over my shoulder," Counihan said. "Each grand marshal plants an oak tree, and his is here.”