Mardis Gras, New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco De Mayo, 4th of July, Halloween. If there were heavyweight contenders duking it out for the title of the booziest holiday these would definitely make up the card.
While it's obvious these holidays have become so inextricably related to drinking, attempting to answer why turns the lens upon ourselves, asking us to look into our beliefs about how alcohol relates to notions of tradition and celebration.
What makes a holiday a ‘drinking holiday’?
Peering over a list of all the major holidays, one can rightfully start to wonder, “Wait, is EVERY holiday a ‘drinking holiday’?!” And while a deep dive into the unique history and tradition of each holiday can yield explanations of why this or that drink has become the libation of choice for the day, it’s fair to wonder: is each holiday's association with drinking less specific to it's history, but rather to our very concept of ‘holiday’ itself? The commonality between all these holidays fits under a singular banner that simply reads: CELEBRATION.
Surprisingly, digging too deep into the intricacies of each holiday’s association to drinking doesn’t really answer much. There's nothing inherently dictating that you must drink alcohol on Mardis Gras due to the tradition of indulgence before Lent. (just because you decide to give up meat, in no way requires you get blitzed the day before your abstinence commences). Nor are you required to drink on New Year’s Eve due to the tradition of a toast to a new calendar year. The Irish communities in America displaying national pride in face of the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the States’ early years, does not legally bind you to the act of drinking beer with a few drops of green food coloring. Likewise, you would not find yourself in hot water for sitting out a night of throwing back tequila shots with lime and salt in some brazen disregard of the rich traditions of Cinco de Mayo…(a holiday Americans like to think they’re paying homage to Mexico’s Independence Day, despite that day actually falling on September 16th). So back to the commonality of all these holidays and our reasoning for consuming alcohol accordingly. Celebration.
Why does this focus on what it means to celebrate vs. what we are ‘supposed to do’ on any given holiday matter?
Because when we realize that drinking is really just about celebrating itself, then there is freedom from the notion that any given holiday can dictate our consumption of alcohol. The holiday calls only for celebration and it is YOU that gets to decide ‘how’ you celebrate any given holiday. This is where traditions can get especially fun. Each Cinco de Mayo, try out a new tradition of getting the funniest pinata you can find, and filling it with wildly creative spoils. Did you hear about Jim and Jordan’s pinata this year? Empanadas! I mean who fills a pinata with empanadas?!” You do. Cuz you know how to celebrate your own darn way.
Irish Car Bombs? Pshhhh! You ever dropped a cup full of vanilla ice cream into a tall mug of delicious root beer? Me neither! But you just invented a holiday tradition that tastes 3275498765 times better than the face-puckering, stomach-churning Irish Car Bomb.
The best 4th of July of my life was spent on the side of the road in a residential street in Wyoming, where the locals allocated a significant percentage of their annual income to a home-made firework spectacle that would render even the world's best champagne buzz, a total bore. To this day I still go back to that very street to share in the DIY majesty of celebrations.
All this is to say, each holiday’s traditions are malleable, and can be shaped to your heart's desire. So no matter how strange, typical, outlandish, or reverent your holiday tradition, just make sure to CELEBRATE!!