What does St. Patrick’s Day mean to Savannah?

Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - With St. Patrick’s Day festivities paused, some are taking the time to think about the true meaning of the holiday.

Savannah has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day for nearly 200 years, but it is a celebration at its core that runs much deeper than one day in the middle of March.

“In celebrating St Patrick’s Day, we’re celebrating 1,589 years of Christianity in Ireland, when he came during 432 AD,” Monsignor William Oliver O’Neill said.

“Growing up in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was fundamentally a religious holiday so you went to church or mass in the morning, actually the day before you would go out and literally dig or shamrock out of the ground and make a little sort of shamrock lapel,” Howard Keeley said.

While the holiday in America has been transformed into something much different, the fundamental elements are still there. Especially in Savannah.

“We obviously have the kind of River Street experience. But, you know, that’s something you sort of choose to participate in it’s not really part of the core experience.”

“What I do like about the St Patrick’s experience in Savannah is that if you just drill down even a little bit, you’ll find that religious core is still very, very present.”

From the Celtic Cross Ceremony to the St. Patrick’s Day Mass, faith may be the foundation, but the significance for so many extends beyond the ceremonial to their own personal traditions.

“If you think about, what are the sort of fundamental messages of religion? It is fellowship, it’s togetherness. And those are the messages that we certainly get from the celebration here.”

“Visitors to Savannah can’t understand why so many people are marching in the parade. Well, that’s what it’s all about, is all about family and faith.”

“The parade is an extension of the mass, in a sense, because one thing about the parade in Savannah, it’s very family oriented.”

This year, another parade wiped out by the pandemic forced Savannahians to find alternatives to celebrate together even while staying apart.

“That strain of togetherness, is, it’s clearly at the very essence of this because people, despite the pandemic are attempting to create ways to come together as a community, as families.”

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