SAVANNAH, Ga. — Mixing religious reverence with raucous excess, thousands packed the grassy squares of Savannah on Saturday and joined the nation in a St. Patrick's Day celebration of all things green.
Worshippers packed the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for morning Mass — about the same time bars opened their doors.
Savannah's St. Patrick's Day parade, the nation's second-largest, is a 177-year-old tradition. The party begins before sunrise and lasts into the wee hours. The scene played out all over the country — different in each city but green everywhere.
At the nation's biggest parade, in New York, it was a mayor's last St. Patrick's Day parade and a cardinal's first, when more than 1 million spectators watched 165,000 pairs of feet march up Fifth Avenue.
For Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, it was a farewell love fest in green. "Rudy! Rudy! We love you, baby," yelled one group of fans minutes after the mayor greeted newly minted Cardinal Edward Egan in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Sen. Hillary Clinton attended Mass at St. Patrick's, but then she skipped the Fifth Avenue parade and headed upstate to parades in Syracuse and Albany. Unlike the New York City parade, which bans homosexuals, the processions in those cities do not exclude anyone.
"I think parades that honor Irish heritage and culture and bring people together should be inclusionary, not exclusionary," Clinton said in Syracuse.
In Chicago, cold temperatures and a change of venue didn't deter thousands of spectators from watching a parade that featured 2,000 Irish dancers, about 60 floats, 26 bands and one enormous helium leprechaun.
A plumbers union dyed the Chicago River green.
Meanwhile, Boston was just warming up for a weekend of St. Patrick's Day activities, with corned beef and cabbage breakfasts, a dog show for Irish setters, and an Irish coffee competition judged by the mayor.
Meanwhile, Ireland itself marked its quietest St. Patrick's Day in memory.
So great is the government's fear of foot-and-mouth disease — which has spread across Britain but has so far not entered the Irish Republic — that it canceled parades, fireworks and other festivities across the country. The disease doesn't harm humans but could devastate the country's livestock industry.
"The outbreaks in the United Kingdom have dealt a severe blow to the farming community, significantly muting the traditional celebrations," said Philip Boyce, the Catholic Bishop of Raphoe in his St. Patrick's Day sermon. "It is a blessing the Republic has escaped so far and prayers that Ireland may be spared are being offered," Boyce said.