Savannah, GA: St. Patrick’s Day and all that is southern

Today, I will wear green so as not to confuse people. As an Irish descendant who is protestant, I should be wearing orange, but I will follow the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. Now there are a few different ways to look at my desire to wear orange.

  1. I am protestant and that is what protestants wear on St. Patrick’s Day.
  2. I am defiant because I am a protestant and I wear it as a symbol of taking a stance against the Irish Catholics. (I don’t like that one)
  3. I like to be different.
  4. I like the color orange over green.

An article written by the National Geographic in 2006 says that, in Ireland, it is considered bad luck to wear too much green. Green is the favorite color of the Good People. If you wear too much green, you might be kidnapped, especially if you are a child.

A crazy American city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is Savannah, Georgia. Known as the second or third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, I overheard revelers say that the parade will last 4.5 hours. The website Savannah.com says that over 300,00 people will visit Savannah to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

My daughter and I were there over the weekend, not to celebrate the holiday celebrating St. Patrick, but to visit the Juliette Low birthplace . Juliette Low was that founder of Girl Scouting. As we were visiting colleges in Florida, I thought that this would be a good chance to run up to Savannah. I knew that Savannah was a wild time over St Patrick’s Day and that our visit would not be a normal visit, but it was the time we had available. We were not disappointed.

Crazy, crazy, crazy! That is how I would describe it. We arrived at lunch time and the streets were packed with green; green clothes, green hair, green faces and of course, green beer. It was a city filled with green, and St. Patrick’s Day was two days away. (I found out later that the partying had been going on for two weeks. The Savannah.com website says that the festivities began on March 2nd and will culminate with the parade today. Our tour driver sounded very fed up with the revelry.)

The best partier  I saw was an older woman, in a wheelchair who had a green wig and was dressed in head-to-toe green. Her husband was next to her in a green sports jacket and plaid green pants.I missed getting a photo of them but I looked at them and thought that this was not just a party town for the 20+ scene. It was for all ages. There were parents with their children tagging behind, babies in strollers and dogs, so many dogs! The funny thing was there were quite a few men in kilts which is actually Scottish. The Irish did adopt the wearing of kilts but it wasn’t until the 20th century. I guess it is just a way for men to take the chance to wear a skirt.

We arrived in Savannah at lunch time and fell into the sea of green. We headed to eat and since I knew we would be in Orlando for St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to eat my Irish meal in Savannah. I won’t mention the place where we ate because I would not recommend it. Being from the Omaha, Nebraska area, where the Reuben was created at the Blackstone Hotel, I am particular as to my Reuben. This Reuben was not made with a corned beef roast. It was a deli, composite-type meat. It had the flavor (sort of) of corned beef, but did not have that great texture. At my home, Reubens are always made the day after St. Patrick’s Day. My difference is I use pumpernickel bread instead of rye. You would never make a Reuben with anything but from a corned beef brisket.

After a mediocre lunch, we walked. Now I will tell you that I am very directionally challenged. I always tell people who if I say turn right, you should probably turn left. We walked, and walked more. I guess it gave us a better view of the historic district  of Savannah. Full of beautiful structures, statues, squares and stories, Savannah is a great place to learn about the growth and struggles of our country in the south. During the Civil War, Savannah was spared destruction by Sherman’s troops when the mayor of Savannah made a deal and gave Sherman the city.

In Savannah there is so much irony. It is said that they do not “tolerate” gays and yet there are clubs for female impersonators and then there is the story of Jim Williams (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). This book, based on facts, is filled with intrigue, homosexuality, murder, double lives and more. During our guided tour of Savannah, the guides washed over the Mercer Home; Mentioned it but never went into a conversation about what happened behind the closed doors. There are tours specifically set to tour all of the key houses, businesses and places around the book, but for our tour guides, it is a non-event.

We had 28 hours in Savannah, Georgia. It was not enough time to get the true feel of the city, especially since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It was enough time to get a taste of the city and it may make me want to return for a third time, maybe for a St Patrick’s celebration or to see the more genteel side. If I return for the St. Patrick craziness, I will need to return for a longer time and to make sure I have enough green (or orange) so I fit in.

How ever you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, do it well and safely. There are pub crawls all across the United States and there will be a lot of corned beef and cabbage eaten. Maybe if I wasn’t with my teenage daughter, I might have been able to get a little wild and crazy with the Savannahians and their guests, but then I am sure I would be regretting it now, so maybe not.

Even though I am missing the food tradition today, I will get home and we will have our corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and Irish Soda Bread dinner. On the next day, we will have Reubens.

Savannah has a long tradition of St. Patrick’s partying and being hospitable to its guests. May we all get lost in our partying when feasible and hold on to our traditions and create new ones to carry on.

Slainte’!  (meaning health in Gaelic)

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