Opinion: A Few Scoops? Since When Was That Our National Heritage?
I may stroll down to our rural town parade with my kids this St. Patrick’s Day. The boys might see a tractor; they’ll be happy. I won’t go all out, spending money on ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirts or Irish flags. Later, we’ll have a chat about St. Patrick and how his legend says he banished the snakes, and we’ll tell stories in the style of the seanchai about Na Fianna and Cúchulainn, the Salmon of Knowledge and The Brown Bull of Cooley. We’ll prepare and eat Irish food and sing a few songs. After all, Irish heritage is what we make it for our children. It’s passed down. That’s the point.
You know what will be missing from my family’s Patrick’s Day celebrations? Alcohol. I won’t be introducing alcohol to my sons’ heritage for as long as possible.
Hands up who wants to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by taking their children to the nearest town so that they can stand in the freezing cold for a couple of hours to see a few floats, loads of advertising, people drunk from early morning, vomiting in the streets and littering everywhere. No? Didn’t think so.
Dublin City Council will attest to the fact that the clean up after St. Patrick’s Day will be one of their biggest tasks this year. In fact, this year in particular it’s likely to be worse than others because our day of festivities falls on a Sunday, meaning that the following Monday is a Bank Holiday. This gives many an excuse to really let their hair down, and so the messiness begins.
St. Patrick’s Day was traditionally the day to ‘break your fast’ during Lent. The one day where as children we would gorge on penny sweets on the way home from Mass and those who had chosen to give up the drink for Lent got a reprieve. Nowadays, very few people give up drink for Lent, but the excuse to drink remains.
So we drink to toast St Patrick. We also drink to wet the baby’s head, ‘To Martha’, to celebrate a promotion, to commiserate a disappointment. Those of us who choose not to drink, no matter the occasion, are marked as a ‘dry arse’ or a ‘wet rag’ because celebrations are not the same without alcohol on board. Drink is, after all, a cheap therapist, or so we are led to believe.
Alcohol is incredibly easy to buy. Never mind the pub; it’s available in supermarkets, corner shops and off-licences. It’s also cheap. Ridiculously cheap. Cinema for two adults with popcorn – on the dry? You’d be lucky if you had change from €40, including the parking and the petrol to get there and back. €40 on drink in the supermarket? That’s enough for two large bottles of ‘quality’ brand name vodka. How do you even compare the two?
Excess, the downfall of our society. Alcohol, food, cigarettes, drugs.
Addiction to and consumption of these items in excess put a toll on our health and welfare systems, and it’s increasing. Isn’t it about time we took another look at where this is leading, as part of the bigger picture?