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Enjoy the party but remember St. Patrick’s message

For those of us who are native to Savannah, St. Patrick’s Day is special. It was always a school holiday, no questions asked. We never had a snow day but, if we had, there would have been no making it up on March 17. The Irish Catholics were among the city’s first settlers. Peasant Irish diggers were brought in to dig the city’s canals and create high ground where there had been precious little to build on. Savannah is a special place – almost a wonderland at times – but it is at its best for St. Pat’s because Irish blood runs deep in its veins. Things start gearing up about a week before the actual holiday. The various Irish societies have black tie galas, assemblies, elegant parties and breakfasts before the massive parade on the big day. Then, those who are able, march the route. Nearly all wear the red face of an Irishman due to genetics, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and, perhaps, cauldrons of Irish coffee. Many are leaning hard on their ornate shillelaghs by parade’s end. Countless others ride the route in land yacht convertibles – classic Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles kept under wraps for the rest of the year and polished up just in time for the parade. The coolest convertibles are reserved for the past grand marshals of the parade and local elected officials, particularly those of Irish descent. Entire families march in the parade. Grandparents and sometimes greatgrandparents herd along generations down to the newest cloaked in green smocking and ensconced in ornate baby carriages. The cadets from Benedictine march as do countless soldiers from nearby Ft. Stewart. Women young and old slather on lipstick and dash into the street to kiss them. The serious Army Rangers can keep a straight face but the Cadets just can’t do it. All look as though they have been caked in rouge by the time they have finished the route. It is an understatement to call this a spectacle. Like the sun sinking into the water at dusk at Key West, it is one of those things you just have to see for yourself. But what about the man for whom the premiere party holiday is named? According to lore, St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland. Poppycock! There are still snakes in Ireland. St. Patrick is credited with establishing Christianity and driving out evil in what was previously a pagan country. Thus, the symbolism with the snake being the symbol for Satan – evil personified. Patrick was born in England but, as a teen, was captured by Irish raiders, returned to the Emerald Isle and forced to work. Often near starvation, he endured brutal cold. After six years he escaped and became a Catholic priest. Then, he did the unthinkable. He returned to the place of his captivity as a missionary with the goal of converting the very same people who had enslaved him. The Pagan Druids did not take kindly to his efforts but Patrick had a special passion for his work. By the time of his death at 80, he was credited with establishing 300 churches and converting 120,000 people to Christianity. Irish missionaries he inspired traveled to the coast of Africa to continue his work and St. Patrick is, to this day, the patron saint of Nigeria, too. How we could use him and his trainees in the middle east today. As for the three-leaf shamrock that is the symbol of the holiday? Patrick used it to illustrate the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as being separate yet one. I ruminated over all this Monday while enjoying a breakfast of green grits, green eggs, spinach and bacon Laura whipped up for the Geiger girls and me. It was served with a sprig of mint on our wedding china. In the future, enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day revelry but don’t forget the message its namesake delivered long before the party started. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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