Saturday, March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day 2018 – a day many people look forward to each and every year. It celebrates the life and lore of Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. Although many people may consider it a holiday for the Irish only, all cultures are invited and celebrate it, especially in Savannah, Georgia.
The Meaning Of St. Patrick’s Day
The man who would become St. Patrick, the “Apostle Of Ireland,” was born in Roman Britain and initially was a believer of the pagan religion. At the age of 16 he was kidnapped from Wales, Scotland or an area nearby and taken to Ireland where he was a slave for many years. He escaped, returned to his family in Britain and became a cleric and then a Bishop in the Christian religion. He returned to Ireland for mission work and helped to establish Christianity as a major religion in the country.
Not much is known of the real Patrick, but his folklore grew and was tangled into Irish culture. Deep within the folklore of the Irish people, Patrick is said to have rid Ireland of snakes (read pagans) and explained the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit using the three leaves of an Irish shamrock or clover and is the origin of why people wear green clothing on that day.
The holiday has been commemorated in Ireland for more than 1,000 years on March 17, the anniversary of Patrick’s death in the fifth century. It has traditionally been a religious holiday in Ireland and until the 1970s; Irish laws commanded that pubs be closed on March 17. However, beginning in 1995, the government of Ireland wishing to promote tourism and showcase the country and its culture to the world, permitted the pubs to be open.
Today, more than 1 million people participate in Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin, a multiday celebration that includes parades, concerts, outdoor theatre productions and fireworks.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S.
Although the holiday originated in Ireland for obvious reasons, the world also celebrates due to Irish emigrants who now populate other countries around the world.
More than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades are performed in the United States and Boston and New York City are where the largest parades in the country are held. In fact, the first parade to honor St. Patrick’s Day did not occur in Ireland, it happened in New York City on March 17, 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British military marched.
During the next 35 years, Irish patriots living in America formed “Irish Aid” societies including the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Hibernian Society. These groups held yearly parades and played bagpipes and drums.
Many American cities celebrate in their own way. For example, Chicago is well known for dyeing the Chicago River green. That city has been doing it since 1962. Citizens of the city claim that they were the first to do such a thing. However, citizens of Savannah, Georgia say they were first to do it when the city dyed the Savannah River green on March 17, 1961. Another historic tidbit concerning Savannah is that it held its first St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1813.
Common traditions in American cities concerning St. Patrick’s Day run the gambit.
• Parades in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Savannah.
• Seattle paints its parade route green, people who attend must wear green or they can be pinched and parade floats and decorations feature the color green.
• Many people in the Northwest of the U.S. plant peas.
How Savannah Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is a special celebration in Savannah. More than 30,000 people commonly attend the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which includes bagpipe players, Shriners, decorated floats, and Irish dance. You can download a map of the parade route that includes bleacher seating from the city’s website.
There are a plethora of events in Savannah that are associated with St. Patrick’s Day that start early in March. They include:
• All of the fountains in Savannah are dyed green starting with the fountain in Forsyth Park on Friday, March 9 at 12 p.m.
• The March of Dimes Shamrock Run consisting of 5-kilometers through downtown Savannah starts at Ellis Square on Friday, March 9 at 6 p.m. Registration is $25-$35. All proceeds go to the March of Dimes.
• The Irish Heritage Dance takes place at the Alee Shriner’s Temple on Friday, March 9 at 8 p.m.
• The Craft Brew Races at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center on Saturday, March 10 from 2-6 p.m. The event includes a timed 5K race and finishers are rewarded with a medal that doubles as a bottle-opener and a pint glass so that they can enjoy samples of beers from more than 30 breweries. There is also live music, food, and more.
• Chloë Agnew and Dermot Kiernan sing Irish folk songs, pop tunes and old favorites at “A St. Patrick’s Day Celebration” at the Tybee Post Theater on Sunday, March 11 at 7 p.m.
• The LGBT community of Savannah hosts the Shamrock Festival & Oyster Roast at Skidaway Island State Park on Sunday, March 11 at 11 a.m. The event includes a silent auction, bingo, raffle, nature walks and more. Oysters, hot dogs, side items and more will be served. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members.
• Celtic Cross Ceremony and Reception at the Celtic cross statue in Emmet Park on Sunday, March 11 at 1 p.m. The event celebrates the Irish community in Savannah.
• Jasper Green Ceremony to honor our military in Madison Square on Friday, March 16 at 5 p.m.
• St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Savannah, Georgia on March 17 at 10:15 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is the third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. It has been held for more than 190 years and includes floats, bands, dancers, Irish groups and societies marching in a parade.
• St. Patrick’s Day Festival on River Street on Friday-Saturday March 16-17 at 10 a.m. to midnight. Stands representing restaurants, bars, and beer and food vendors line the street serving their wares and music is included.
• St. Patrick’s Day Fire Ball sponsored by the IAFF Savannah Firefighters include firefighters from around the world at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum on Friday March 16 from 6 -10 p.m. The event includes an open bar, hor d’ourves, live music, silent auction, raffle with prizes and dancing.
Staying safe at St. Patrick’s Day events in Savannah, Georgia is not difficult if you keep these things in mind –- plan ahead and stay aware.
Make certain you have arranged for a designated driver who will not drink at the events, have an alternate plan if a designated driver is not available, stay hydrated and eat food, leave valuables at home, stay by your drink and never accept a drink that has been opened for you, and if you are the designated driver, drive carefully.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has a free app that helps drunk drivers get home safe. The app is available for Android and Apple mobile devices.
One more thing: Have a great and safe St. Patrick’s Day.