As if St. Patrick’s Day wasn't enough, in 2009 Ireland rolled out another unofficial holiday created by Guinness that goes by the name "Arthur’s Day," a celebration held in honor of the 18th-century founder of Ireland’s quintessential drink. The Huffington Post reports that Guinness claims "the annual festivities provided a needed tonic for a 7,500-strong Irish pub network struggling to maintain profits in the face of a five-year debt crisis that has ravaged employment and incomes." The day features surprise musical performances in 815 pubs and clubs across Ireland as well as concerts worldwide, from Malaysia to Jamaica.
According to The Huffington Post, "Many pubs are offering free pints of Guinness at 5:59 p.m. — a reference to the founding of Guinness in 1759 – followed by the appearance of a band or singer, among them internationally popular acts, many kept secret until that moment." Such performances have previously included impromptu sets by Tom Jones, Mumford & Sons, and Stereophonics.
But HuffPo reports that this year, "Guinness has been put on the defensive amid protests that Arthur's Day is compounding an alcoholic culture that costs Ireland €3.7 billion ($5 billion) annually in hung-over workers, a Europe-leading rate of liver disease, late-night vandalism and violence in hospital emergency rooms." And local store owners are starting to speak out about the debauchery that the day brings to the country. Aisling Fitzsimons, a 50-year-old manager of a convenience store said to HuffPo, "They shouldn't call it Arthur's Day. They should call it Vomit Day." Fitzsimmons claims she has to hose down the sidewalk outside her store most weekends.
All kidding aside, the day seems to be creating a problem for the already brewing alcoholism problem in the country. Statistics show that Irish households last year spent 7.7 percent of their money, or €6.3 billion ($8.5 billion), on alcoholic drinks. "Diageo has invented Arthur's Day as a pseudo-national holiday for the purposes of marketing its products, especially to young people, thereby stimulating greater consumption of alcohol," said Alex White, the government minister responsible for policy on alcohol and drugs.
In America, holidays like St. Patrick’s Day seem like a good old-fashioned way to pretend you’re Irish and drink your face off, but apparently we should start thinking twice about the way we celebrate such days. The onslaught of debauchery both in America and Ireland on these holidays has created a host of problems for local officials attempting to control rowdy crowds and deal with the aftermath of hungover employees and ravaged streets. Considering the health risks of binge drinking, it may be best to celebrate patron saints and Guinness creators in a more civilized manner this year.