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FROM READERS: Cultural holidays should be more than drinking

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 | 4:54 p.m. CDT

Zac Early is a blogger who covers the music and beer scenes of Columbia at Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement as well as The CoMo Collective.

Zac's blog, Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement, is part of the Missourian Media Guide, a navigation tool designed to help you find your way around Columbia’s information outlets.

This past weekend, many Americans proclaimed themselves Irish as an excuse to get ridiculously drunk on green beer. Aside from the nausea induced by the idea of fizzy yellow stuff tinted with food coloring for anyone who takes craft beer seriously, St. Patrick’s Day is just another horridly bastardized cultural holiday Americans have ruined in the name of overconsumption. Throw in Cinco de Mayo and almost any day associated with a saint (including the Super Bowl — Saint Lombardi), holidays meant to celebrate a culture and its many contributions to society are simply dismissed as another way for industrialized, rice-adjunct lager to destroy our livers and taint our criminal records, not to mention their assault on our taste buds.

As a beer enthusiast, I love any opportunity to celebrate with beer. However, whether it’s for a holiday or just getting together with friends, I cringe at the idea of drinking with the sole intention of just getting drunk. It’s particularly offensive once we associate drunken debauchery with an entire culture just because that’s how it was marketed to us. Is it really fair to celebrate our perception that the Irish are a bunch of drunks?

The mainstream take on St. Patrick’s Day is beer culture at its worst. There is no acknowledgement of actual Irish tradition. Green-colored, light American lager is not what’s served in Irish pubs. So, it’s not even remotely authentic. If there were ever a time for some “real ale,” St. Patrick’s Day would be a fine day to try some. What makes this all worse is that Irish culture is so much more than beer … Of course, this is a beer blog, so I’ll stick with what I do.

Who’s to blame for this misappropriation of St. Patrick’s Day?

I blame the big beer makers and their marketers. Someone did some research and found that there’s a fantastic pub culture in Ireland. Instead of emulating the beer in Ireland, they decided just to add food coloring to the cheap stuff (or buy a name in the case of Killian’s). All in the name of making some profits in mid-March, these companies and their marketing machines have misrepresented a holiday that celebrates the accomplishments of an entire culture.

This marketing then does what the beer companies do best which is appeal to the lowest common denominator in hopes of selling more product to mindless consumers. The message is that on March 17, we all wear the most ridiculously green outfit or costume we can find and drink ourselves silly. It doesn’t matter what sort of nod we think we’re giving to Irish culture, we just want to drink.

This is too bad. After all, a holiday such as St. Patrick’s Day could have a positive effect on our perceptions of Irish culture. For one, it could be a day to positively look at immigration and all the contributions immigrants (not just the Irish) have had on this country. Besides, it only takes a quick trip over to Wikipedia to realize that St. Patrick’s Day has other meanings to the Irish and their connection to Catholicism that only remotely have something to do with drinking. A moment to recognize Irish immigration, culture and history might be hard to do between green Jell-O shots and keg stands.

To be clear, I am not against partaking in some St. Patrick-themed fun. The day used to serve as an excuse for the Irish to feast and beer goes well with a good feast. Having some greenish attire and calling yourself Irish in search of affection is cool as well. What I’m railing against is the practice of mindless overconsumption under the guise of a cultural celebration. Let’s have some fun, but do it with a purpose.

I meant to post this before St. Patrick’s Day (hence the inevitable verb tense issues). So, the point is moot. However, as we near industrial beer’s next great holiday, Cinco de Mayo, remember that Mexicans don’t really celebrate this day and that it has little to do with a skunked beer enhanced with a slice of lime.

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