To Arthur

Arthur's Day Celebration

At 17:59 this Thursday we will dutifully raise our glasses and overcome with a collective fit of patriotic fervour, intone the great unifying refrain “To Arthur”.

Elsewhere in a dimly lit boardroom, a group of smug marketers will rub their well-manicured hands together in unattenuated delight.

Advocates of our newest national holiday attest to the salutary raising of our collective spirits in recessionary times and to the potential influx of much needed tourism revenues, but the fact remains that Arthur’s Day is nothing more than a cynical marketing exercise, dreamed up in corporate corridors to line Diageo’s pockets.

And as cynical marketing exercises go, it is an incredibly successful one. Very few advertising campaigns can claim to create rituals and change behaviour on an international scale, but such is the power of the Diageo marketing machine.

It is a lamentable fact of modern Irish life that we now need to rely on brands and corporate bodies to create occasions for us. Have we moved so far away from our native traditions and values that a manufactured holiday is more meaningful to us than celebrations rooted in religious or ancient Celtic beliefs such as Easter, Samhain, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, even the much maligned St Patrick’s Day?

Surely as a nation with a proud and rich heritage, we have more than enough occasions worthy of celebration.

Diageo had already succeeded in insinuating itself into our most internationally renowned holiday, but not content with one national day of drunkenness; it demanded one of its very own.

So on Thursday I’ll raise my own glass (of decent French Bordeaux) to Arthur, his marketing executives and our own endemic credulity.

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