by an Irishman
Pretty much everybody hates the way the holidays have become so commercial in the last decade. Valentine’s day exists solely to keep Hallmark in business, Halloween is basically a way to keep the employees of slutty costume manufacturers worldwide off unemployment and Christmas is controlled by the vast, shadowy brussels sprouts consortium (we assume).
So when a huge international company announced that it was going to launch its own holiday dedicated solely to the consumption of one of its products it should have been the last straw. An entire holiday dedicated to making money for one company? That sounds like the plot to a Disney movie. The whole exercise should have been immediately thwarted by a bunch of photogenic teenagers and a dog.
Fortunately the product in question was Guinness, the country was Ireland and the McScooby gang was probably trampled in the rush to get to the bar.
Ireland is not renowned for its cuisine; they basically stopped once they’d mastered boiling the crap out of something. This wasn’t out of laziness however it’s just that they directed their energies elsewhere.
Guinness is what happens when you take a people that are renowned for their pub culture and ask them to create the perfect bar drink. It has existed longer than America’s been a country and, to be perfectly honest, more preparation goes into its pouring than the drafting of the constitution.
A properly poured pint of Guinness is more of an art than a science. It’s one part bartending to two parts master-level cookery . A proper pint is universally understood to be a lengthy 2/3 minute process which is why rushing one is considered to be a stabbing offence in many civilised cultures.
The perfect pint is poured at a 45-degree angle until it is ¾ full before being left to settle and then topped up, meaning that a properly poured pint will teach you more about fractions and geometry than most public school math classes.
There is a school of thought that says it’s acceptable to mix Guinness with soft drinks like coke or blackcurrent juice but this is one of those schools where the kids aren’t allowed to have scissors. Putting a mixer in a pint of Guinness does more damage to Irish culture than Oliver Cromwell and the Potato Blight put together.
In 2009 Diageo announced that it would be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the first pint of Guinness ever poured by throwing the session to end all sessions. They booked high-profile musicians and performers for venues throughout the country and also encouraged any pub that carried Guinness, i.e every single pub in the country (and there are nearly 10,000 of them) to sell Guinness cheaply, have live music and give out a free pint at 5:59 p.m.
The event was called Arthur’s Day (after Arthur Guinness, the drink’s creator) because apparently “Conforming to a Negative National Stereotype Day” was too long to fit on the promotional coasters. And it was a massive success.
Seriously, the event made Diageo so much money that what was supposed to be a one-time thing quickly became an established annual celebration that just finished its fourth year, and that noise you just heard was McDonald’s executives crawling over each other to set up “Ronald’s Day.”
Now make no mistake. Arthur’s day is a manufactured, corporate holiday that was created solely to make Diageo Scrooge McDuck levels of money and everybody involved knows it…they just don’t really care. Because, while Diageo might have shamelessly created the holiday to shift more of their product the Irish people did the math, realized that they were essentially being offered a second Paddy’s day in September, and went along with it.
So yeah, Diageo were milking people for some extra money but they were doing it by creating a valid reason for everybody to get drunk on a Thursday and listen to some live music. Something which, on the whole, the Irish decided they were relatively ok with.
It might seem like a jaded, crass way to increase profits but let’s compare it to some other holidays.
The relative youth of Arthur’s Day means that it still has all its drunken revelry but nobody has tried to use it to force people to spend time with their families. It’s the perfect holiday!
Arthur’s Day has already even started to accumulate ridiculous traditions, the sign of any good holiday. Pubs will often hand out a free pint to regulars at 5:59 p.m., the traditional toast on the day is “To Arthur!” and, since the event is always held mid-week, presumably bosses across the country traditionally ignore how hungover their employees are the following day.
Diageo recognized the fact that nobody really minds how commercial the holidays have become once they get drunk enough and then stopped brainstorming because they already had their idea.
Richy Craven is an Irish freelance writer and semi-professional idiot. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or keep up with his ongoing quest to find gainful employment on Twitter.