It might not have been the ‘glorious Twelfth’ we have become used to.
In these uncertain times, however, most people involved in today’s festivities were merely delighted that it happened in the first place.
And there were thousands of them, thronging the streets of Belfast, enjoying the colour, noise and pageantry of a typical Twelfth of July parade.
Last year, in the midst of the first coronavirus lockdown, there were precious few people on the streets, with the big day having been cancelled.
Today, some could argue that there were far too many.
The remarkable vaccine roll out since the start of the year has made this possible, but we’re still in a pandemic and there was little evidence of face masks – even Union Jack ones - or social distancing.
The Orange Order had changed the format from two years ago, replacing the 18 main demonstrations in Northern Ireland with more than 100 localised ones due to coronavirus restrictions.
While happy to be out in the sporadic sunshine, many spectators complained about the long waiting times before bands and brethren arrived; this year, people had been told not to follow the parade, so the patience of those in fixed spots was often tested to the limit.
A total of 101 lodges and 44 bands took part in six separate demonstrations across the city.
For many wanting to watch the parades, it was even worth catching a flight to join in the merriment.
Linda Madden (64) and Myra Shearer said they like to “come every year” from their native Scotland.
“We’re sisters in the Orange Lodge in Glasgow and we’re making a long weekend of it, catching up with friends,” said Linda.
Myra added: “It’s good to see everyone out and about but it’s not the same with all the smaller parades.”
Bangor woman, Christine Chew (60), told the Belfast Telegraph that this year – the 331st anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in Northern Ireland’s centenary year – was her “first Twelfth in 21 years”.
“I was always working, so I could never watch the bands,” said the former admin employee, who was with her sister, Doris Dodds (58), Gemma McMurray (32) and 11-year-old Phoebe McMurray.
“We came early, so that we could get parked and we have everything we need: a picnic, seats with drink holders.”
William, Joanne and three-year-old Abbie McElhatton said they had come from Londonderry with their friends, Sammy, Rosie and little Shelbie Thompson, also from the Maiden City, to “see some of the bigger bands”.
“The sun is here and there are a lot more people around than we expected, so it’s fantastic,” said William.
“It’s always a great family day out. That’s why we’re here.”
Rebecca Lewis (31), her daughter, Skyler Bowater (9), and son, Hudson Bowater (2), from Kilcooley, Bangor, were enjoying the street party on the Newtownards Road with their friends, Carlene Beattie (33) and Ka-Tia Beattie (5).
“We normally come to Belfast on the Twelfth and we’re hoping that it’s going to be great day out,” said Rebecca.
Mike (54) and 21-year-old Elisha Allen, a father and daughter from Manchester, who were sitting on the street, basking in the early afternoon sun, said they “always come to Belfast at this time of the year for a holiday”.
“We didn’t actually think it would be so busy but it’s great to see everyone enjoying themselves,” said Mike.
There were a few people standing in line at Martha Blakley’s street stand, where you can buy a wide variety of red, white and blue paraphernalia, including drums, batons, sweets and clothes.
“I expected more people to be out and about,” said Martha, who had come from north Belfast to the east for the day
“But it’s a great atmosphere. Everyone is in great form.”
Aerospace worker from Bangor, Phil McClean (26), who was in Belfast with a group of friends, said it was his “favourite day of the year”.
“It’s great to see everything finally getting back to normal,” he said.
“You can’t beat the Twelfth of July. I really missed it last year and I’ll be even happier when it goes back to its traditional format.”
There was an influx of glamour from South Belfast, thanks to Danielle Beattie (27), Andrea Donaldson (28), Chloe Burns (29), Darcie Smyth (3), Chelsea Lamont (28) and Emma Coyle (27).
“We watched the parade on the Lisburn Road and decided to come here,” said Andrea.
Meanwhile, Steven McGrath (32) and Kim Bell (30) were “having a great family day out” with their daughters, Maddie (9) and Prezlie McGrath (4), who were wearing matching orange dresses.
“The girls love the celebrations,” said Steven.
Most people agreed that next year will be better.
But at least it’s no longer the ‘Twelfth of never’; instead, it’s the beginning of a new era.