17 ways that St Patrick’s Day was celebrated in 2021

St Patrick’s Day is known worldwide for its colourful parades and boisterous social gatherings. This year, with so many countries under lockdown restrictions, it was a different affair.

But Irish people around the world found innovative ways to celebrate and get into the spirit. Using everything from drones, live video and drive-through formats, here are just some of the ways St Patrick’s Day was marked in 2021.

1. Drones above Dublin’s docklands

On March 17th, a swarm of 500 drones took to the sky to perform a light show that featured green shamrocks, celtic designs and Irish dancers. It took place in the night sky above Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Bridge and ended with a ‘Happy St Patrick’s Day’ message.

The ‘Orchestra of Light’, which was organised by Tourism Ireland, Dublin City Council and St Patrick’s Festival, was streamed live for viewers around the globe.

2. Walking trails for all ages

For St Patrick’s Day, the tourism board in Dublin, Ohio set up a self-guided street gallery tour. Works by four local artists were spread throughout the city’s streets. Each one was inspired by scenes of Dublin, Ireland. For children, the city’s Irish Fairy Door trail was expanded too.

3. A touching tribute to frontline workers

The London Irish Centre ran a series of virtual events under the theme ‘London Le Chéile’ – or London Together. It aimed to capture the spirit shown by London’s Irish community throughout the pandemic.

The centre, which itself has been delivering food parcels, meals and books to those at risk, made sure to pay tribute to Irish frontline workers.

Featuring famous faces like Angela Scanlon, Dermot O’Leary and Imelda May, its main event also shone a light on the city’s young musicians.

4. A call for green fingers

This year, the Green Roots Project asked children to do something truly green for St Patrick’s Day. Using the hashtag, people submitted photos of tree planting and rubbish picking as they exchanged their plastic shamrocks for real ones.

5. A traditional parade in Auckland

New Zealand’s largest city was one of the few places able to hold a traditional St. Patrick’s Day parade this year. Under a beating sun, members of the Irish diaspora walked behind their county flags. There was facepainting, balloons, Irish dancers and the only dodgy beards to be seen were just held on with elastic string.

For its sixth year of celebrations, the Celtic Bayou Festival arranged a series of online events to keep people entertained at home. Its Facebook Live schedule included classes on making soda bread, Guinness stew, Irish coffee and other cocktails. Members of the Louisiana Celtic Connection shared – and debated – their favourite Irish films too.

The week-long schedule of events ended with the winners of the red hair and freckles competition being unveiled.

7. Inspiring messages from abroad

The Department of Foreign Affairs put together a series of videos to mark St Patrick’s Day. They stirred our spirits and reminded Irish communities around the world that we’re still connected.

There were virtual receptions sent out to individual countries, as well incoming messages from world leaders and members of the diaspora working on the frontlines.

8. A cartoon from Kilkenny

To celebrate St Patrick’s Day, Cartoon Saloon created a short animated story.

The Kilkenny-based animation studio recently received its fifth Oscar nomination for Wolfwalkers. Here, the film’s leading character Mébh tells the tale of St Patrick and the wolves of Ossor.

9. A cultural exchange in Indonesia

The Irish Embassy in Jakarta marked St Patrick’s Day with a selection of cultural activities. It shared activity sheets and ran an Irish-themed colouring competition for children. It also partnered with a local literature podcast to create a four-part series discussing folk tales, poetry and the Irish language.

10. An Irish MASK-arade

In Saint Paul, Minnesota, the St Patrick’s Association ran a drive-through parade. The 2021 Irish Mask-arade featured stationary installations with performances from socially distanced musicians and dancers. There was a ceilí band in a convertible too.

11. Greening global landmarks

Every year, Tourism Ireland’s list of landmarks turning green for St Patrick’s Day gets bigger and bigger. Among the quirkiest monuments to go green this year were Uganda’s equator line marker, Belgium’s smurf statue, France’s fire-breathing dragon machine and Indonesia’s macaque Monkey Forest.

However, this year’s showstopper had to be Dubai’s Palm Fountain. Not only did the world’s largest fountain turn green, but it also featured an impressive choreographed display.

12. The continuance of a New York City tradition

New York’s annual Paddy’s Day parade moved online this year. It featured highlights of past parades, live music and messages from politicians, community leaders and other members of the Irish-American community.

But to continue the tradition of parading down Fifth Avenue, which has happened every year since 1762, organisers also held a small ceremonial march in the early hours of the morning. The details were kept under wraps to prevent crowds gathering.

13. A virtual fashion show

The island of Montserrat in the Caribbean moved most of its St Patrick’s events online this year. The virtual experience included lectures, art exhibitions and a fashion show.

All the clothes were made by local designer Cheryl Cassell, who appears to be a fan of green, white and orange. The show, which was streamed live on Facebook, also featured local singers and dancers.

14. Parades at home

RTÉ and St Patrick’s Festival​ partnered together to run a virtual parade again this year. To join in, people from across the globe shared videos of artwork, lego processions, toy car parades, pet pictures, homemade bunting and garden parades.

By the time St Patrick’s Day arrived, there was plenty of entertainment available under the hashtag #RTEVirtualParade.

15. Lots of live (streamed) music

This year, Dublin’s TradFest, Cork’s St Patrick’s Festival and Birmingham’s St Patrick’s Festival all turned to live Irish music to entertain audiences stuck at home. The London Irish Centre put the spotlight on musicians under 25, while Tourism Ireland tipped its hat to the Irish pub with a series of live streamed performances from bars across Dublin, Belfast and Dingle.

16. Fundraising for a good cause

The St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong, which turned 90 this year, marked St Patrick’s Day with a unique fundraising initiative. Although they can’t fly right now, members took a virtual trek from the Gate Clock Bar in Dublin Airport through to the Arrivals Hall at Hong Kong Airport.

Together, those who signed up covered the 9,000 km distance by walking, cycling and running in their own time. The money raised also went to homeless charity ImpactHK.

17. Remembering a shared history

At Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, which turned green for Paddy’s Day, the local Irish Embassy launched a temporary exhibition about the Irish anti-apartheid movement. It charts the movement from its beginnings in 1964 through to subsequent boycotts. 

For those who can’t make it there, a virtual walking tour on the history of the Irish in Johannesburg is also available.

About EPIC

At the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, we record and commemorate the influence of the Irish diaspora around the world.

As well as looking at the creative ways Irish people have been celebrating their national holiday, we’ve also been documenting the countless ways they have stepped up to help others.

When the pandemic has come to an end, we look forward to documenting this chapter of Irish history.

Check out our virtual tour to find out more about Ireland’s influence abroad.