March 17th....another day you say. Certainly not if your hometown is Savannah, GA and you grew up in a very large extended Irish family. My ancestors landed in Savannah in the late 1800's. Their names were McDonald, McGreal, O'Neil, and Ryan. They were hardworking Catholics who believed strongly in their faith and their families.
So it is no wonder that March 17th is especially important to anyone who is of Irish descent and hails from the fair city of Savannah. As a child, I remember watching the parade from in front of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. My grandfather, Gene McDonald, walked with the Hibernian Society. As he passed, my sister Meg and I would jump in and walk a ways with him. My other Grandfather, Ira Ryan, was a fixture at the Cathedral where he represented the Knights of Columbus and served as an usher. Later, Pop, could be found down at the K of C selling drink tickets. During my senior year in high school, I dated a Southern Baptist from Middle Georgia and he thought it was shameful that my grandfather would usher at church and then an hour later sell drink tickets. Needless to say ...that relationship didn't last very long.
Other St. Patrick's day memories include learning the Irish Jig from Sister Rosarie at Blessed Sacrament School and then dancing the jig as the BSS students marched in the parade. In high school, the month of March included many performances by the St. Vincent's Academy Chorale and Les Chanteurs choral groups. We would get out of school almost daily and go sing traditional and fun Irish songs to many civic groups around town.
Now that I no longer live in Savannah.....I look back fondly on the many happy memories of this day. Today, my sisters Angela, Meg, and Andrea will gather around Lafayette Square to celebrate. My father, Tim, and brother Michael will walk in the parade with the Fenian's Society. My mother, Mary will walk with the Daughters of Ireland. The smiles on their faces as they pass along the parade route are amazingly bright and sunny.
Yes...indeed....it's a great day to be Irish. Celebrate the heritage of a culture that brought dancing, laughter, and hard work to our nation