On March 17 we’re all Irish. From the fountains to the street, on St. Patrick’s Day, everything in Savannah turns green. But where did it all begin?
James Oglethorpe established the first permanent settlement in 1733. At least nine of the settlers who were granted land were Irish. In the 19th century, Irishman came for another reason – the potato famine. The 1845 blight took one-third of Ireland’s potato crop. Thousands starved to death and thousands more left Ireland to avoid starvation. Many of these came to Savannah. “It was Irish muscle and sweat that built our highways and railroads, dug our canals, mined our coal, improved our commerce and trade,” claims historian Cas Robinson.
The St. Patrick’s Day parade was established as a way for Irish Americans to show their Irish pride. In 1812, the Hibernians Society of Savannah was formed by forty-four prominent Savannah gentlemen to help needy Irish immigrants in the area. In 1813 members of the Hibernians Society marched privately to the Independent Presbyterian Church for the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
In 1824, the first public procession was held. The local Hibernian Society president invited all local Irishmen to meet for mass and public parade through the streets of Savannah. In 1870, the first grand marshal was elected and bands joined the procession for the first time, creating a model for our modern-day parade.
Each year, St. Patrick’s Day becomes a more secular event honoring and celebrating Irish heritage and culture. These days Savannah has become known for its celebration. From live music, dancing, drinks, and more, downtown is bustling with tourists and locals alike.
Book your hotel for our St Patrick’s Day celebration here.
Sources: www.savannahnow.com and www.thehiberniansociety.com