Happy Arthur's Day, the Made-Up Guinness Holiday
We didn't think that the Irish needed another excuse to drink, what with St. Patrick's Day (and the newly coined Halfway Day, the six-month mark to March 17). But September 27 this year marks the observance of the third annual Arthur's Day, a holiday dreamed up to celebrate Arthur Guinness's signing of a 9,000-year lease on a mothballed brewery at St. James's Gate in the middle of Dublin for £45 a year, back in 1759. (He actually signed the deal on December 31 of that year, but that date had apparently already been taken by another holiday of some kind.)
At the first 2009 "holiday," celebrating the brewery's 250th anniversary, the party was promoted as a "secular St. Patrick's Day," reports the Guardian and Slate — a day filled with concerts, drinking, and toasting to Arthur at 5:59 p.m. (or 17:59 p.m. on European clocks) across the country. The "Paint the Town Black" (that being the color of the famous stout) campaign advertises major headliners in Ireland — Mumford & Sons, Mika, Fatboy Slim, and Elile Goulding, to start — and a £5 donation to the Arthur Guinness fund for every check-in. (One slight problem: the majority of these headliners are British, not Irish.) About 500 "locals," or pubs, have signed on with smaller Irish bands.
Sounds harmless? Not so much: many are refusing to participate, saying it's a marketing ploy by its holding company, Diageo. More so, it's an excuse for many to drink a few too many pints, thus giving into the "drunken Paddy" stereotype. "It’s a celebration of getting absolutely hammered. Lamped. Langered," writes columnist for the Irish Times, Shane Hegraty. While the Irish can in fact mix culture and alcohol, Hegraty writes, the holiday is more of a "marketing wheeze." We say, any day's an excuse to enjoy a pint of Guinness — but responsibly, of course.