Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Guinness...Uh, I Mean St. Patrick's Day!

To an Englishman, St. Patrick’s Day is a weird Holiday.

In Ireland and America, it makes perfect sense. St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, so the Irish obviously celebrate it, and many Americans emigrated from Ireland to America, so it makes sense that America celebrates it as well.

In England, it gets a little more fuzzy.

You see, the Patron Saint of England is Saint George, the guy who supposedly killed a Dragon. However, while everyone in England goes out and drinks copious amounts of Guinness to ‘celebrate’ St. Patrick’s day, St. George’s Day goes completely unmarked.

Hell, most English people don’t even know when St. George’s Day is.

So we celebrate another country’s Patron Saint’s Day, but not our own? Why?

Well, basically, St. George’s Day involves going to church, having a good old pray and then going home again.

St. Patrick’s day involves wearing over-sized, emerald-green hats with shamrock pinned to them, singing lewd Irish drinking songs… and drinking lots and lots and lots of booze. (Guinness if you’re orthodox, but drinking any form of alcohol is permitted. It’s the getting drunk that matters…. just how St. Paddy wanted it.)

I should point out here that this post isn’t born from religious outrage. It’s the same with most holidays. Christmas is an excuse to eat, drink and get presents. Easter is an excuse to eat lots of chocolate. Thanksgiving is an excuse to overdose on turkey etc.

You see, I’m a dyed in the wool atheist. I’m not angry that a religious holiday has been turned into an excuse for binge drinking, nor am I getting down on the religious establishment. I’m not writing this to express my displeasure, nor am I attempting to expose religious ‘corruption’.

Nope, I’m writing about this because I think it’s funny.

It makes me laugh. St. Patrick’s has basically become ‘Christmas 2’ for the brewery and bar owners.

Ah, but Paulius, isn’t that a little cynical? Surely the bar owners enjoy the extra business St. Patrick’s brings in, but that’s not what it’s all about, surely?

Let me tell you about St. Patrick’s Day 2001, Location: England.

This was the year when St. Paddy’s had the severe misfortune of landing on a Sunday..

Now for a true religious holiday, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. Sunday is the Sabbath after all. What better day to celebrate the life of a Saint?

Well, there probably isn’t a better day to celebrate a Saint’s Day… That is unless that particular Saint’s day involves a lot of drinking, and you’re bound under British Licensing Laws.

You see, under British Licensing Laws, all ‘drinking establishments’ have to close early on Sundays.

Usually, pubs and bars in England are licensed to sell alcohol until midnight, but on Sundays they’re required to stop serving at 10:30. (I think this law has been over-turned now, but it was solidly in place in 2001).

That’s an hour and a half of drinking time! That’s right, the most booze filled holiday of the year, and the bars have to close early?!? That’s like a toy store closing down for the Christmas Holidays!

Even if you discount the licensing laws, most people have to be at work on Monday, and no one wants to get up in the morning with a massive hangover.

Foiled on both counts. On the day that people should be wearing their shamrock hats, singing the song about the ‘Hedgehog that can never be Buggered’, and buying lots and lots of Guinness, the pubs are closing early, and worse than that, instead of saying “Bajesus! Oil have anuther Guinness barkeep!” People would be saying: “I’ll just have the one thanks, gotta get up early tomorrow.”


Trust me, I was a bartender for nearly five years (I could draw a shamrock on the head of a pint of Guinness as I pulled it, I even knew to chill the glasses first, pull half the pint and let it settle before filling it and everything!)

St. Patrick’s day was busier than Christmas. One St. Paddy’s I took over four grand in just my register within a couple of hours…we usually wouldn’t make that all night.

So the bars had a problem. Luckily, they wouldn’t stoop to bastardizing a cherished religious holiday, would they?

Of course they would!

Rather than celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in 2001, British pubs chose to use all their Guinness selling tactics and ‘specials’ the day before.

That’s right, the boards outside the pubs that usually proclaimed things like:

“Guinness Extra Cold! Buy One Get One Free on St. Patrick’s Day!”

instead read:

“St. Patrick’s Day Eve Celebration! Free Guinness!”

Yeah, that’s right. The actual holiday was ignored, and we chose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Eve instead.

So, St. George killed a great big honking dragon (Perhaps even Trogdor the Burninator), and the English say “Saint Who?”

…and while I’m not a religious man, when St. Patrick died, I’m pretty sure his last thoughts weren’t:

“I’ve led a good life. Through my actions people will have the perfect excuse to get shit-faced on Irish Beverages once a year!”

St. Patrick’s Day Eve?

I mean, come on…Who in their right mind would turn a religious holiday into a shameless marketing ploy?

Oh, that’s right. Most of the world.


monkeymonkey said...

hmm... dunno, where you've been to say that St Georges Day is largely unrecognised... but I'll think you'll find is very much celebrated here in Bristol... In fact it's hard to find a shop, home, bar or pub that doesn't fly the flag on 23rd April... I'd say the same applies to the Isle of Wight also.

Paulius said...

Maybe it was just where I lived then.

Although I'm pretty sure we never celebrated St. Georges Day Eve

Kato said...

Psh, like he could really kill Trogdor.