Corona Steals the Luck from the Irish


Due to COVID-19, no one spent this St. Patrick’s Day kissing anyone, Irish or not.

St. Patrick’s Day is viewed as an essential day to Irish culture. Now known for alcohol consumption, corned beef and cabbage, and festive parades full of green and garnished with shamrocks, this holiday is regarded as a commemoration of the day St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. It is celebrated on the anniversary of his death on March 17, 461.

The first parade was held in New York City in 1762. It only grew larger and louder as more Irish immigrants came to the U.S. In 1903, Ireland adopted its own tradition and started its own parade in Waterford. Dublin, the location of the second-largest of today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, was the last to join the parade trend in 1931.

The St. Patrick’s Day parade that is held in Dublin is the most iconic of the country’s many parades and hosts five full days of celebration every year. Over a half a million people crowd the streets during this long weekend of boat races, musical performances, a whiskey and beer festival, and a massive parade on the actual holiday. Buildings and churches light up green for the special occasion, and there’s not a person in sight who isn’t sporting green from head to toe.

The Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois has been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day since 1962. This year was supposed to be the first year that River Liffey, which runs through Dublin, would be dyed green following Chicago’s tradition and with the help of city plumbing authorities from Chicago. The coronavirus has nixed those plans, and the goal is for next year to be able to pick up where they left off and celebrate the holiday as usual, but with the addition of the green River Liffey.

Karen Frewen Hickey, 34, a resident of Ballyduff Upper, Ireland, usually spends St. Patrick’s Day with her husband and children at their local parade in Cappoquin. Her 6-year-old son, Finn, was involved in the parade last year with his GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) team.

“It’s a lovely day to see how proud we are to be Irish and for our children to be involved and to parade in front of everyone.”

The cancellation of such a beloved day in Irish culture hasn’t just put a damper on the country of Ireland alone as the mass shutdown also devastated the U.S.

“This year, the coronavirus put all parades in Ireland to a stop. Our local parade in Cappoquin canceled theirs on Friday, March 6, before Dublin even canceled. It was sad, as St. Patrick’s Day parades are tradition and a great day to meet up with friends and family, but for health and safety, it was the best decision. I believe tourists even had flights booked to come to Ireland to celebrate with the Irish, which was hard when it was canceled,” Hickey explained.

Seamus Carey, 23, the Assistant Director of the Brewster High School marching band, was affected directly by the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day.

The school’s marching band has performed in New York City’s parade every year since 2008, except for 2013, when they took part instead, in the Dublin and Limerick parades in Ireland. Unfortunately, this year was also a no-go for them, but because of very different circumstances.

“This was supposed to be the first year we had eighth-graders march in the New York City parade, so we are disappointed for them, but excited that they had been welcomed into the program by the students.”

Both as an Irish-American and as someone who works hard with his band to prepare for St. Patrick’s Day, it upset Carey to hear of the news that the virus had become serious enough to possibly cancel a celebration of such magnitude.

As the holiday approached, the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak continued to grow, and other groups that were expected to perform in the parade backed out. Brewster High School’s band director, Bryan Sanyshyn, 28, brought his concern to the attention of the principal, and collectively, they too decided that they should give up their spot in the parade for the safety of everyone involved.

Shortly after their decision to not attend, the parade was officially canceled as a precaution. The marching band had a trip to Italy planned for Pope Francis’ World Day of Peace on New Year’s Day of 2021, and already, the school has put a halt on the planning process due to the uncertainty of where this pandemic is headed.

“We knew the kids would be disappointed,” said Carey. “But we did not want to be the ones to expose them to the virus.”