SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A year since the Bay Area was ordered to shut down and stay home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds gathered in San Jose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and return to some semblance of normalcy.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been out so I think outside feels great, and it feels safe,” said Joyce Lin. “It’s been a long time since we felt safe.”

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Lin was among the crowd that gathered outside O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in Downtown San Jose where thousands normally have gathered pre-pandemic for St. Patty’s Day.

“Course we’re all outdoors here so all the tables are spread 6 feet apart or more, everyone has to sit down, there’s no standing,” said Shane O’Flaherty whose parents own the Irish pub.

Irish dancers perform during a St. Patrick's Day celebration in Downtown San Jose on March 17, 2021, a year after the Bay Area was told to shelter-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBS)

Irish dancers perform during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Downtown San Jose on March 17, 2021, a year after the Bay Area was told to shelter-in-place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBS)

He said, however, there was a noticeable difference in the crowds this year.

“I think on a normal St. Patrick’s Day we get 3,000 to 4,000 people,” he told KPIX 5.

O’Flaherty estimated this year there was about 10 or 15% of that number.

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Santa Clara County is in the Red Tier, which means no more than three households can gather outdoors for more than two hours.

“It used to be pretty packed, especially the later you get in the evening you’d have it just shoulder to shoulder so it’s kind of nice,” said Matthew Howard. “We’re still here only because it feels safe.”

Howard and his wife, Brianna Howard, brought their young daughters to the celebration in Downtown San Jose because the crowds were a lot more thinned out this year.

“We’re here as a family, we’re celebrating,” Brianna said. “I feel really safe and they have it all spread out.”

Some would say it’s the luck of the Irish that they were able to finally gather nearly a year to the day we were all told to stay home.

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“It’s like 2019, it’s like going back in time, I love it,” said O’Flaherty. “It’s just a glimmer of hope, a small light at the end of the tunnel that life is moving back to normal.”