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St. Patrick's Day subdued across the world amid virus crisis


BOSTON — St. Patrick's Day revelers across the world tried to salvage the holiday with makeshift celebrations after parades and parties were scrapped and residents were urged to hunker down at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

It was the first St. Patrick's Day in more than 250 years without a large parade in New York City, but a small group of organizers marched the rain-soaked streets early Tuesday anyway — observing "social distancing," they said — to keep the tradition alive.

Led by police cars with flashing lights, people in uniforms and sashes marched up Fifth Avenue before dawn with a banner and flags as bagpipe music played. The brief march wasn't advertised, and the sidewalks were largely empty.

After having to postpone shows in Boston due to the virus, American Celtic punk band The Dropkick Murphys hoped to spread Irish cheer to those holed up in their homes with a concert that will be livestreamed Tuesday night on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

“We’re gonna play it like there are people in front of us, at level 10,” singer and bassist Ken Casey of the band, known for its popular song “I'm Shipping Up To Boston," told WBUR.

Neighbours in some communities were organizing “Shamrock Scavenger Hunts” on social media to give kids whose schools are shuttered because of the virus something fun to do for the holiday. Residents were told to hang a shamrock in their window so kids could go around the neighbourhood and spot the shamrocks, while keeping a safe distance from one another.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Parades were cancelled across the globe as governments raced to contain the virus. Bars and restaurants that would typically be filled with partiers on St. Patrick's Day were closed to all but take-out and delivery in places like New York and Massachusetts.

Irish authorities called off Dublin’s parade, which usually draws half a million revelers into the streets of the capital city, and pleaded with people not to congregate at house parties.

The country's national broadcaster, RTE, urged people to post footage of their improvised, isolated celebrations on social media. The hashtag #RTEVirtualParade soon became a riot of flag-waving family processions, pets in green, white and orange tricolours and children performing Irish dancing.

In the U.K., London’s St. Patrick's Day festival in Trafalgar Square was called off, and the government urged Britons not to visit bars and restaurants but did not formally shut them down.

Still, landmarks around the world, including Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and The Colosseum in Rome, were lit up in green as part of Tourism Ireland’s “Global Greening” project.


Associated Press reporters Jill Lawless in London, Peter Morrison in Dublin, Karen Matthews in New York City and Philip Marcelo in Boston contributed to this report.


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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press

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