St. Patricks Day: Pandemic edition

By Ajay Davis | March 16, 2021 10:37pm

A young girl smiles at the parade spectators while her camogie team walks through Galway city center in 2019.

Submission courtesy of Molly Lowney.

Most St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are characterized by parades, throngs of people, and a full day of drinking in pubs and bars - activities made impossible with the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, mass cancellations of St. Patty’s Day celebrations were the first marker to many of what was to come. 

Ben Furstman was among the students who studied abroad in the spring semester of 2020, and had a very unexpected experience on his last St. Patrick’s Day. 

A group of UP students celebrate St. Patricks Day on the cobblestone streets of Galway in 2019.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Branick.

“I was having a great time in Galway right before St. Patrick’s Day, and I was planning to go meet my brother in Dublin to celebrate,” Furstman said. “Even though people were starting to get worried about Covid, as the day got closer, we changed our plans to make sure we would have a fun day regardless. But it all came crashing down a few days before, when Trump ordered the Travel ban and suddenly I was alone in an airport at 3:30 a.m. on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day waiting to fly back to Seattle for the rest of the semester. Not the best way to celebrate.”

However, while students like Furstman who studied abroad in Ireland last year didn’t quite have the St. Patrick’s Day they were hoping for, many other students were fortunate enough to get the full experience in the years before COVID-19. Matt Branick, who studied abroad in Ireland in 2019, has fond memories of his St. Patrick’s Day experience. 

A family walks down the street before the start of the 2019 Galway St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Submission courtesy of Molly Lowney.

“I was in the town of Galway on St. Patrick’s Day, and I remember celebrating all day long. It started with a parade around 10 A.M. and then pretty much all day after that we walked around and went to pubs, watched Irish dancing, a lot of live music, and ate some Irish food,” Branick said. “It reminded me a lot of the Fourth of July, and I could see a ton of national pride and Irish tradition involved in all the celebrations.”

At least for those living in Ireland or the United States, St Patrick’s Day is a well-known and widely celebrated occasion. However, for people living in countries elsewhere in the world, it is not nearly celebrated in the same way that it is in the U.S.. 

Senior Catherine Watson, who lived in the US before moving to England at age 12, was shocked to find that the holiday passed by very quietly in the UK. 

In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, these two dogs were dyed green and paraded the streets of Galway.

Submission courtesy of Molly Lowney.

“When I first moved to England, I expected St. Patrick’s Day to be a much bigger deal than it was in the U.S. just because of England’s proximity to Ireland, but it wasn’t like that at all,” Watson said. “Of course, I had a few Irish friends who would celebrate it, but nothing beyond that. I think that the U.S. is such a mix of people that we think celebrating other cultures’ holidays is pretty standard, but I don’t think there’s as much of that in other places like Cambridge, England.”

This year, whether in the United States, Ireland, or anywhere else, celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day will certainly look different than past years. While parades and big parties might not be an option, there are plenty of safe and at-home ideas that can be found here.

Ajay Davis is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at