I generally eschew going out on the major holidays, primarily because America — and especially the business sector — has turned them into reasons to get drunk and sell crap that none of us need. Much is written about the commercialization of Christmas but, really, is there a single holiday that Hallmark isn’t trying to sell you on the idea that you should buy your loved ones a card to celebrate it? And perhaps most sad of all is how many holidays that used to be a chance to spend time with family, to commemorate something worthwhile or to celebrate a shared history with your community have been turned into another drunkfest. The most egregious of these are New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo, the 4th of July, Halloween (the #1 keg sales weekend for most beer retailers) and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Since I essentially drink most days and as a paid professional, I refer to these holidays simply as “amateur drinking days” because it seems like people just go nuts and drink as much as humanly possible. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday’s original purpose, but is used simply as an excuse to drink to excess. And it’s hard, for me at least, to be around such people. They give drinking a bad name, not to mention providing neo-prohibitionist’s fuel for their bonfires of intolerance.
So I was glad to see I’m not entirely alone on this one. An editorial in Pittsburgh’s The Times Leader by Michael O’Hare today discusses what’s happened to our holidays using the recent St. Patrick’s Day as a catalyst. In his editorial, he gives voice to the frustrations of his older Irish-American friend, Seamus, who tells him he didn’t go out on the holiday because he’s no “pop culture Irishman.” Asked to explain, Seamus relates the following.
“Well, you know, the Irish have a reputation for drink. But the Irish were like the Brits, the Welsh, the Scots and any number of nationals and races who at one time shared their time with neighbors in pubs. And, but for the local drunks, they didn’t pound down their beer and whiskey; they savored it, along with the conversation. It was the celebration, not the drink, that was the center of the gathering,” he said.
Exactly. Beer should be savored with good friends and good conversation. I couldn’t agree more.