SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Before the parade and parties begin in Savannah on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s tradition to start with mass and a procession to the Celtic Cross Monument.

Although some of the usual festivities were cut this year due to COVID-19, the Celtic Cross Ceremony in Emmett Park went on as planned for its 37th year.

“These COVID years bring us back to those years of simplicity,” said Bernadette Winters, who was invited to speak at Wednesday’s ceremony.

Winters is a founding member of the former Tara Feis festival and has directed music at St. Vincent’s Academy, where she attended high school, for 27 years.

The ceremony is dedicated to the Savannah Irish past, present and future, as is inscribed on the monument. With COVID-19 shadowing the holiday for two years, it seemed only fitting for Winters to focus on the future.

“God willing, by next March 17, we will be able to once again celebrate in even grander style and with more appreciation,” Winters hoped.

She hopes future celebrations will continue to embrace the past, focusing on faith, family and Irish heritage.

“Let each of us pick up the torch of education and pride and perpetuate this love in future generations, to be sure it never becomes just a parade day,” Winters said.