Boston tradition canceled, students reminded to stay safe this St. Patrick’s Day

A sea of green parade-goers will be missing from Boston’s streets for the second St. Patrick’s Day in a row, and Suffolk University is urging students to avoid gatherings during the holiday.

In an email sent to students Thursday, Suffolk University Dean of Students Ann Coyne reminded the Suffolk community that despite successful vaccine rollout in the state, students must remain vigilant in doing their part to stop the virus’s spread.

“Students involved in house parties will be referred to Suffolk’s Student Affairs Office for conduct hearings and the consequences may be significant,” Coyne wrote in the email. “In addition, the BPHC will be issuing $500 citations for those in violation of occupancy limits.”

Irish Americans make up over 20% of Boston’s population according to the US Census Bureau, so St. Patrick’s Day festivities are a large celebration of the city’s Irish roots. In the past, restaurants (especially Irish bars) were packed with people, traditional Irish music and even step-dancing.

Boston is home to other St. Patrick’s Day activities like the Irish Heritage Trail, the Irish Film Festival and the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. This includes the Dropkick Murphys’ annual concert at the House of Blues, right next to Fenway Park.

The city’s most anticipated event is its parade, and it is renowned as one of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Since 1737, thousands have gathered in the streets all dressed in green to watch the event unfold in South Boston, a historically Irish neighborhood.

Last year, Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and other festivities were the first major events canceled in the wake of COVID-19 spreading into the United States. Businesses and restaurants closed with the promise of an even better celebration in 2021, marking the start of a city-wide coronavirus response.

A year later, city officials once again canceled the parade with the hopes of avoiding a “super spreader event,” Mayor Marty Walsh said at a March 1 press conference.

The statement comes as the city moves into Phase 3 Step 2 of its reopening plan. However, officials are still concerned about Boston’s St. Patrick’s day festivities, which have a history of attracting large crowds.

“I want to be clear that there should be no large gatherings of any kind for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Walsh. “We are so close to a finish line here. What we don’t need now is a step backward. Events like Saint Patrick’s Day and weekends like St. Patrick’s Day can throw us back.”

The Boston Public Health Commission will be enforcing gathering limits on gatherings, with a limit on 10 individuals in indoor gatherings and 25 outside.

Residents and businesses still plan to celebrate this year, just in a different way. Many restaurants will remain open while following the guidelines outlined in the state’s reopening plan. The Dropkick Murphys’ are also hosting a free virtual concert available online.

“Hopefully, a year from now… there’ll be no real rules or regulations in place,” said Walsh. “We’ll be able to have the fun and the celebration that we all want to have.”

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