Residents of The Preserves neighborhood in Cumberland Township toasted to Saint Patrick Tuesday while maintaining proper social distancing and keeping the crowd within the Center for Disease Control guidelines of 10 people or less. Pictured, from left, are Pam Dalrymple, Roger Dalrymple, Geoff Carter, Lynn Cairns, Ed Thompson, Howard Burrell, and Tom Bardo.

Saint Paddy’s Day often causes hundreds of people to gather in close quarters and toast the patron saint of Ireland.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing social distancing, 2020 celebrations were anything but common.

Eight Cumberland Township residents of The Preserves Neighborhood gathered in Ed Thompson’s backyard Tuesday afternoon to give a traditional Irish toast while maintaining space between each other.

With Irish tunes playing, the friends — who admit they have experienced plenty of Saint Paddy’s Days but none like this one — raised their glasses with hearty “cheers.” Toasting to good health is common, but health was at the forefront of this year’s conversations.

Thompson and Howard Burrell shared their concerns for residents for whom isolation is challenging, such as those in nursing homes. They also wondered how the homeless members of their community are coping, while discussing ways to help.

“I hope something good comes out of all of this. Maybe we will all learn to appreciate each other more,” Burrell said.

Thompson wondered whether the current crisis will lead to more awareness about viruses or if this is the “new normal.”

But all of the talk wasn’t so serious.

“He’s from Brooklyn, he will believe anything,” Burrell said of Thompson.

When Steve Mock arrived late due to a golf game, the friends were not sure if his tales from the greens were fake news.

“The nice thing about golfers is you never believe them,” Thompson joked.

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