Raise Your Glass For… Just About Anything

It’s Thursday, and you feel very thirsty. You are looking for something to drink to, but cannot seem to find a legitimate reason. Don’t worry: Guinness’s latest and greatest holiday can rescue you from purposeless drinking!

Diageo, the British multinational alcoholic beverage company that owns Guinness and various other premium drinks, created “Arthur Day” in response to declining sales of their trademark brew, or “black stuff”. The holiday began in 2009, on the 250th anniversary of Arthur Guinness signing a 9,000 year lease to the St. James Gate Brewery. It occurs on a predetermined Thursday in September, kicking off at 5:59 when everyone raises their glasses, exclaiming “To Arthur”.

Guinness presents Arthur day as a “global celebration” that “brings people together with live music to celebrate Arthur’s legacy”. They invite world renowned music acts to Dublin on September 27th and 28th, and sponsor smaller musical events around Ireland. The 2012 lineup includes artists like Tom Jones, Example, Mika, Tinie Tempah, and Fatboy Slim. This year there are more than 500 pubs participating, the Arthur day website even boasting a pub finder.

Diageo has an immense marketing budget to push for this holiday – this past August launching the “Paint It Black” advertisement campaign. The campaign was meant to “encourage people from around the world to be a part of the annual celebrations by raising a toast to the man behind our iconic pint, Arthur Guinness” said Chris Wooff, the senior brand manager. The ad shows a village covering the town with some sort of black sludge, culminating in them raising their glasses to Arthur Guinness and beginning a celebration.

While this event has garnered a lot of public feedback, and is growing in popularity, there are many people who disagree with the creation of this arbitrary holiday. Besides being an obvious marketing ploy, this holiday is a thinly disguised excuse to “get blind drunk for the sake of it” (Nay McArdle). The thought that Arthur’s day is a celebration of live music and bringing people together is a ruse that even those eager to participate must see through. While this is bad in itself, it is especially bad for Ireland, whose citizens are stereotyped to drink to excess.

Though this holiday clearly does not originate for any legitimate reason, it has seen an increasing amount of success. This causes one to wonder why this holiday, which exists solely for commercial purposes, did not end up like many other “Hallmark Holidays”. Some point to the fact that Guinness is a “heritage brand” that people feel intensely loyal to. The more likely reason, however, has to do with the nature of the holiday.

Arthur Day is a holiday where the only true purpose is to drink, and likely to drink a lot. Is this not the purpose of many of the popular holidays that we have today? Think of Saint Patrick’s Day, once an innocent holiday of corned beef and cabbage, that is today a day of green beer, parades, and debauchery. Most every holiday that we celebrate in America revolves around drinking–New Years, Cinco de Mayo (dubbed “Cinco de Drinko”). Even if the holiday was not originally intended for drinking, alcohol consumption seems seep into the celebration–Thanksgiving is now the most dangerous holiday weekend for being on road according to the National Highway Safety Administration.

If you consider that drinking is an integral part of many holidays, it makes sense why “Arthur Day” would be more successful than a National Cream Puff Day, World Nutella Day, Sweetest Day, and other similarly commercially oriented “holidays”. So, if you choose to “Paint the Town Black” this evening, consider what this means about the nature of holidays in general. Ah, well: “To Arthur!”


Irish Times

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