This is the second year in a row I’ve received a press release about the Guinness/Diageo marketing campaign called Proposition 3-17 (I’m not supplying a backlink, just Google it if you want to find out more) in which the brand is trying to “make St. Patrick’s Day an officially-recognized holiday in the United States”. While I love a good marketing gimmick as much as — if not more than — the next guy, there are several reasons this particular gimmick (and yes, it is a gimmick) really annoys me.
First off, the modern day St. Patrick’s Day celebration is almost a completely secular cultural holiday celebrated by Irish Americans (in this country anyway). And while I am the biggest proponent of celebrating cultural significance, if you’re going to reward one cultural holiday with national recognition, you must recognize all major cultural holidays that way. You cannot just pick and choose (its bad enough that only major Christian holidays are celebrated in America, but that’s a much larger argument for a much larger platform) which ones to recognize.
Secondly, it should absolutely never be up to a private company to try and dictate national holidays. Especially an English company (Diageo; which is headquartered in neither the U.S. nor Ireland). Valentine’s Day is bad enough, as its now an almost entirely commercial holiday (even Christmas is borderline but again, another argument for another platform), but at least it started out as something more. Yes, St. Patrick’s day is “something more” but if it were to become a nationalized holiday at the urging of a commercial brand, it would take any remaining true cultural legitimacy out of the holiday completely, and turn it entirely into the marketing gimmick Guinness is trying to make it (understandably, as I’m sure it’s the brand’s most profitable season). the recognition of a holiday should be up to the people and the government of the country recognizing it and at their own discretion; not at the gentle prodding of a major multinational corporation.
Lastly, while drinking beer is obviously a large facit of the celebration of St Patrick’s Day — and of the Irish culture itself — drinking alone is no reason for a national holiday. And believe me, I’m the biggest advocate of safe, responsible alcohol consumption (duh!), but when Guinness is trying to make an Irish holiday an American national holiday solely because of drinking, something has gone terribly wrong.
Saint Patrick’s Day is already a national holiday in Ireland, where it should be. And, while it is widely celebrated across the U.S. by Irish and non-Irish Americans alike, there is absolutely no legitimate reason to make it (and not every other major cultural holiday) a national holiday.
Those are my two cents, what are yours?