It is the day after St Paddy’s on the University of Guelph campus.
People are wandering around as if it were Sunday morning. The grogginess of their night perceivable through their collective gait, but no one questions the out of place hang-overs or the reason half-of them can’t even remember why they woke up where they did.
It was Saint Patrick’s Day: the day where “everyone is Irish”.
It is a day embraced as a time to drink to your heart’s content, and keep going, regardless of the actual day of the week, or what work needs to be done.
If you’re wearing a shamrock, you’re totally justified.
You missed a test? Hah. Laugh it off, you don’t remember the night.
Don’t know where you woke up? It’s okay; you DO remember your eighth green beer.
All of this is totally fine in the minds of hordes of annual revellers. There are parties in every city and an abundance of green costumes, like a Halloween in March.
My question is only three letters long. Why?
Why is it ok to kill yourself drinking (hopefully not literally), and drink consistently from sun-up to sun-down?
I know the tradition is, at very least, as old as my parents, but I’m willing to bet this wasn’t standard fare for my grandparents; people who have actual Irish ties, or none at all.
It seems to me that, as I get older and become more aware, the reasons and, more specifically, the method, behind drinking the day away are getting hazy.
I’m not speaking in a historical sense here. If you want to know the origin of the holiday, look it up on Google. We hear a veritable abundance of excuses, and histories (fairy-tale or otherwise) in regards to the reason for the season, so I figure that finding the true historical context is pretty much useless.
It doesn’t matter anymore what exactly Saint Patrick did.
It is no longer a religious question, and any political importance the day might have held for Irish independence has been forgotten. So… why?
Well, as the title states this is an opinion. It’s one that I’ve been thinking about since plans started to form a few weeks ago. I think that we, as a society, as a culture, are doing it wrong.
Now don’t get ME wrong here. I’m just as willing as the next student to day drink once in a while.
I’ve got no issue with spending the night at a bar (or multiple) or attending keggers with hundreds of people. That’s pretty standard for university life.
However, in comparison, St. Paddy’s is a day when that all happens at once, but worse than usual. It’s a day rife with day drunkenness that lasts well into the night. Many students pay no regard to their hard-learned drinking practices. The kids decide to “go hard” from 9:00am in the morning till around midnight?
And for what?
To celebrate a dead Irish saint? No.
To pretend to be the worst kind of Irish caricature? Probably closer.
Simply because it’s an excuse to drink all day and get as drunk as possible? I think so.
Growing up as an (admittedly fourth generation Canadian) Irish kid, I learned, accidentally, from a young age what it actually means to celebrate the day. Sure everyone gets a history lesson, and everyone knows it’s an excuse to drink, but does anyone actually consider what being Irish for a day means?
It sure as hell doesn’t end with putting on green clothing and drinking.
“Irish for a day” should imply an embrace of culture not a prolonging of stereotypes.
Yes, drinking is a thing that Irish people do, but they don’t “go ham” all day.
If you want to sit at a pub for hours, consuming a couple of drinks with each circle of the small clock hand, you’ll end up as dickered as you want to be by the end.
That’s too long for most people. University life doesn’t really provide a hospitable environment for a sipped drink.
Guinness is not a beer meant to be shotgunned, in the same way as you shouldn’t be staggering drunk by 11:00 am.
Here is the misinterpretation.
You can drink to get drunk or you can get drunk by drinking, and these are two very different mind-sets.
North American’s, using our highly consumerist attitudes and desire for large portion sizes, drink to get drunk. We’re good at it. It never takes very long if you put your mind to losing it.
Saint Patrick’s day should be a day where we embrace getting drunk through drinking attitude, sure.
Take as long as you want. Don’t put on high-speed music that ups your heart-beat and calls for getting smashed. Put on Irish folk music, or even East-Coast music.
Have some drinks with friends, and then in another hour, have a few more, and then a few more. By the end of the day, the drink will have settled into a nice drunk, and your plans will have been fulfilled rather than ruined by a mid-afternoon puke, or passing out at 4:30 pm.
So the answer to the question “Why” is: because we don’t understand.
We don’t know why we’re drinking, but more than that, most of us don’t know how to.
A vast majority of adults drink and most of those know when they should stop. That knowledge seems to get lost with the moon on St. Paddy’s.
Why are we drinking? That doesn’t really matter. As I said, you can find your own answer.
As a culture we don’t understand the day. I would go so far as to say that St. Patrick’s is the single-most misunderstood “holiday” in North America. Get drunk drinking, don’t drink to get drunk.
Educate yourself if you get a chance. Talk to someone from Ireland, or listen to some great old-tunes.
But for god’s snakes, don’t pound them back from 9am onwards and assume you’re doing it right just because the paint you put on your face is the colour of a wild flower’s leaves.
Also, remember to check this website out for next year and all years to come on March 16th: http://paddynotpatty.com/