Historic Savannah square with springtime azaleas. Photo courtesy Sandy Traub
If one Irish tradition — the day begins after sunset – holds true, then St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, Georgia will begin at 7:33 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2015. We can say assuredly, though, that upwards of 200,000 revelers won’t be watching for a St. Patrick’s Day clock to begin their party! In fact, a few days beforehand, the city’s public fountains – from staid, simple ones like that in Orleans Square to the elaborate Victorian confection of a fountain in Forsyth Park — begin to flow a brilliant green in a visual nod to the Emerald Isle.
It will be 10:15 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, 2015, when one of America’s biggest Irish heritage parades — resplendent in shamrock green and lilts of Irish music and fetching laughter — departs from Forsyth Park in downtown Savannah, Georgia USA.
Green Palm Inn’s Irish Dinner with inspired desserts from “Gone With The Wind”. Photo courtesy Diane Crews.
Rich Old Irish Traditions: Intimate, Generous Hospitality Is Revived in Historic Inns
Amid the St. Paddy’s Day good humor and tomfoolery, the simple, authentic Irish farmhouse foods will be showcased on the historic home tables at many of the small Romantic Inns of Savannah. Winsome cooks and chefs at the restored stately and cottage inns rally to serve up the charming hospitality reminiscent of Ireland, where “the best food was generally for guests, and the warmest hospitality was often to be found in the most humble cabins.” – Source: The Complete Book of Irish Cooking by Darina Hall, owner of Balleymaloe Cooking School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland.
Even if you’re not Irish by birth, in friendly Savannah’s hospitality style — famously “The Hostess City of the South” — the intriguing cues to be energetically Irish or celebrate as though a Colleen or Patrick during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are not by accident. Thomas Paul Thigpen writes in his “Lay Leaders as Cultural Mediators: The Catholic Experience in Nineteenth-Century Savannah, Georgia” of the “cultural mentors” and the “aristocracy of the heart” which welcomed nearly arrived Ireland immigrants into Savannah. “Catholic lay leaders in Savannah built for themselves and their fellow parishioners a home where they could think, speak, and act confidently as Catholics, Americans, and Southerners.” We read in Ancestry.com that “many of the Irish who came to America in the mid-19th century did not speak English, an obstacle to smooth adjustments. Groups such as the Hibernian Society helped to teach newcomers the English language.” (Source: Heritage Quest, Ancestry.com, “Irish to Georgia (USA) — 1700s and early 1800s.)
This inclusive, orientated, welcoming spirit of welcoming every stranger as “a kin” drives the celebration of Irish heritage in Savannah, Georgia USA.
Diane Crews at Celtic Cross Monument, Emmet Park, downtown Savannah GA. Photo courtesy Green Palm Inn
Generous Savannah Hospitality: Small Inns Honor Irish Ancestors
“Wide open is the door of the little cottage.” – Irish Saying
Helping newly arrived travelers get closer to the culture and learn Savannah’s ways are happy traditions.
Behind the scenes at Zeigler House Inn (121 West Jones Street), the Kentucky-born caterer-turned-innkeeper is preparing her traditional Irish fare. “Grandma and Grandpa Carroll were both Irish and she is the inspiration for my cinnamon rolls, biscuits, scones and the Colcannon I make for St. Patrick’s Day,” shares Jackie Heinz. Jackie uses an antique potato masher, reminiscent of the one she and her cousins scrambled to use in her grandmother’s kitchen. The mid-day St. Patrick’s Day menu is an annual tradition featuring Irish Coffee, Irish Colcannon, Reuben Quesadilla, and Irish Pancakes with maple syrup and Kerrygold® Irish butter. Jackie’s Irish recipes are here.
Kindness was the currency amid Irish farm cottage families, for the humble Irish in Savannah welcoming potato famine immigrants, and for Irish heritage celebrants on St Patrick’s Day today. Fleeing the Great Potato Famine in Ireland (1840s), Irish immigrants lived in the most humble of housing in the Old Fort District east of East Broad Street near Savannah’s historic Trustees’ Gardens, and in the shanty towns off of West Broad Street (today’s MLK Jr. Boulevard) near Yamacraw and Frogtown. The Celtic Cross, located in Emmet Park is near the old Irish neighborhood along the Bay Street strand, reminds daily travelers of the hearty Irish pioneers of the American south who exemplify still random acts of kindness.
Near the Old Fort District today, there is welcoming old Irish charm at Green Palm Inn (548 East President Street), a 4-bedroom cottage inn, once townhomes to sea captains. Innkeeper Diane Crew’s Irish ancestry comes through her mother’s paternal Skelly family — O’Scolaidhe in Gaelic. “My farming grandfather came to the United States, settling in Minnesota, by way of Nova Scotia and Canada.”
THE O’HARA’S “GONE WITH THE WIND” DESSERTS IN SAVANNAH
In tribute to her Irish heritage, the St. Patrick’s Day holiday lunch menu (called dinner in Ireland) at Green Palm Inn features three “Gone With The Wind” inspired desserts from the O’Hara’s table – Four-Layer Chocolate Cake, White Chocolate Pudding (mange blanc), and Champagne Pound Cake Minis with Champagne Glaze. In Irish style, the inn’s hearty menu – complementary to lodging guests — will include also Poached Salmon, Leek and Bacon Potato Soup, Pear and Dried Cranberry Chutney, and market plates including pork loin marinated in garlic and honey mustard, banger sausage, smokehouse ham, Murphy and Kerrygold Irish cheese, butter, and Irish Soda and brown breads. Beverages are red wine, sparking wine, and Emmet’s Irish cream.
Celebrate all of March, Irish-American Heritage Month, with festive homemade desserts. Photo courtesy Jackie Heinz, Zeigler House Inn.
40 SHADES OF GREEN ARE IN SAVANNAH STREETS ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY!
Savannah lacks Ireland’s green mountain cliffs and rolling hillsides, renowned for the island’s “40 shades of green” nature-scapes. However, on St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah anyone who meanders along the 191st Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade route through the National Landmark Historic District is sure to see 40 shades of green and more.
The “Wearin’ of the Green” in Savannah is quite the picturesque scene, with shades of Clover Green, Emerald Green, Kelly Green, and Shamrock Green trumping Army Green, Tea Green or Screaming Green for the day’s favorites.
Led by Irishmen walking with fashionable shillelaghs, Savannah’s Irish families join hundreds of parade floats and invited bands playing heritage-conscious tunes like “McNamara’s Band” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” The crowd-pleasing Irish farm horses, now America’s iconic Budweiser® Clydesdales, prance majestically along old town streets under live oak tree canopies dancing with Spanish Moss (which is gray, not green!). Early rising revelers attempt to temporarily homestead the choicest of spots in the historic squares (small garden parks) and line the parade route for the front-seat vantage points to watch a three-hour long parade. Reserved bleacher seating is available at Bay Street, Colonial Cemetery, and Cathedral locations.
WHAT IF IT RAINS ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY?
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a rain or shine event, all the more akin to a Top o’ the Mornin’ day in Ireland, we’d say!
“…I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk….”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
IS SAVANNAH GA AT THE END OF THE IRISH RAINBOW?
Both Savannah and Ireland are celebrated for natural beauty, golf, romance, religious traditions, historic heritage, and food.
If Guinness in Dublin Ireland is where the Irish rainbow begins, then Guinness ice cream could very well be the end of that dreamy rainbow in Savannah, Georgia USA. The annual Irish favorite is served during the month of March each year from the nostalgic Leopold’s Ice Cream shop (212 East Broughton Street; closed St. Patrick’s Day).
One critic dubbed author Margaret Mitchell’s Remington typewriter the harp, the official symbol of Ireland. It is the Irish harp music that was played by traveling bards reading the Psalms.
This trail of Irish music and faith reminds us, too, of Irish worship observed at Savannah’s majestic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Lafayette Square) during the St. Patrick’s festivities. John Paul Thigpen relays the story of brawny and charismatic Irishman named John McMahon, a captain in Savannah’s Irish Jasper Greens. “[W]hen McMahon marched his whole company to the Catholic Church for Mass on Sunday morning, the Jasper Greens felt a sense of pride: Under McMahon’s leadership, as one said, they were ‘testifying their respect for religion, and proving to all that soldiers should not blush to bend the knee to their Creator.’”
Airlines at Savannah/Hilton Head International airport offer over 45 daily nonstop flights – American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, and U.S. Airways. Allegiant begins service in May 2015.
ST PATRICK’S DAY DINING TIPS
Ask any Romantic Inns innkeeper where the best Irish pubs in Savannah are. Expect the hearty Irish drinking songs, including “Wild Rover” and “Beer, Beer, Beer Tidily Beer, Beer, Beer”. Everyone has favorites!
Make dinner reservations early. Or, plan ahead or stop in spontaneously at The Fresh Market (5525 Abercorn Street, Savannah) to fill a last-minute picnic basket with a wide variety of Kerrygold® Irish cheddar cheese and butter, fresh-cut corned beef, deli Rueben Panni, mustards, St. Paddy’s Day cupcakes, pretzels, cookies, Irish Soda Bread, Moonstruck’s Bailey’s Irish Truffles, Guinness® Draught, and the freshest of seasonal berries.
Wishing all a happy St. Patrick’s Day, and hoping you are in Savannah, Georgia, on March 17, 2015!
““These things I warmly wish for you:
Someone to love, some work to do,
A bit o’ sun, a bit o’ cheer,
And a guardian angel always near”
– Irish blessing.