So, today is St. Patrick’s Day. Here in the U.S. it is something of a point to celebrate one’s Irish heritage. Given the historically crummy treatment of Irish immigrants (particularly throughout the mid-19th century), I certainly appreciate the irony where we all proudly claim our Irish ancestry. To be fair, most groups of immigrants face terrible discrimination, particularly when arriving in large numbers. I write “face”, because this is still occurring today, along with the rise of nativism, but I digress. Somehow St. Patrick’s Day (or St. Paddy’s Day if you feel inclined to shorten it) at least on this side of the Atlantic, has strayed from its roots in Catholicism. This, of course, is not necessarily the worst thing coming out of this holiday. I am largely okay with covering everything in green, shamrocks, and leprechauns. I do not particularly expect the population to delve into the reality of Irish culture either. I get it; it is a fun day.
I, having some Irish heritage, spent many years settling down to a fine dinner of corned beef, cabbage, and assorted boiled veg (usually of the potato variety). My husband is not a fan of a traditional boiled dinner, so I have not had one in years. If I had some foresight, I might have planned a traditional Irish breakfast for dinner, barring the pudding, bread, and butter. Although…if I get busy, I might be able to swing it.
One of the largest problems I have with today’s festivities is the general expectation to drink oneself into a stupor (preferably courtesy of imported Irish beverages or green-tinted American beer). I get it, revelry often involves alcohol, but is this really a good thing? An almost myopic focus on alcohol consumption as a cornerstone of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations carries the implication that the Irish are a raging bunch of alcoholics. This allows for the cultural normalization of stereotypes. In normalizing this stereotype, it changes our acceptance and tolerance for excess alcohol consumption in the Irish and Irish-American community. Further, it allows those with Irish heritage to internalize the stereotype, making it seem acceptable to drink excessively, which inhibits their ability to recognize a problem and seek appropriate treatment (Martin, 2015, p. 531).
This type of over-the-top celebration also effects society as a whole through normalizing excessive and binge drinking.
Moderate: 1 per day
Excessive: 8 or more drinks per week
Binge: 4 or more drinks during a single occasion
Moderate: 2 per day
Excessive: 15 or more drinks per week
Binge: 5 or more drinks during a single occasion
Now, I could sit here and tell you that alcohol use resulted in approximately 88,000 deaths from 2006-2010. I could tell you that there is a strong association between alcohol consumption and a variety of cancers (head and neck, esophageal, liver, colorectal, and breast). I could lecture you about the negative effects of binge drinking on the body (liver disease, poor diabetes control, increased risk of injury and death, increased risk of STI/STD, etc.). I could tell you that drinking to excess increases your risk for being a perpetrator or victim of crime, domestic violence, and even sexual assault. If you are the type to care about financial losses, I could even tell you that binge drinking is responsible for $191 billion in annual costs, due to decreased productivity, crime, and treating associated health outcomes. At this point, it should be very clear that the preponderance of evidence indicates that excessive alcohol consumption is a bad thing.
I won’t pretend that you are going to abstain entirely today. I am a realist after all. However, there is one thing that I find non-negotiable. Do not drive if you have been drinking! “Over St. Patrick’s Day from 2009 to 2013, there were a total of 276 lives lost in drunk-driving crashes”. That averages out to 69 people that do not get to walk on this earth again every St. Patrick’s Day because someone decided to get behind the wheel while buzzed or drunk. Plan before you go out. Select a reliable and sober friend as your designated driver, plan for a taxi, Uber, or Lyft ride, or find a designated driver service in your area.
Here are some helpful links to help you find a designated driver service in your area. Some of these programs are regional, so make sure you read everything carefully before you go out. If anyone has any more resources, please list them in the comments.
Martin, S. C. (Ed.). (2015). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Alcohol: Social, Cultural, and Historical Perspectives (Vol. 1). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.