‘Twelve pubs of Christmas’ is a booze orgy too far for Ireland

If there is such a thing as the personality of a country, you’d have to say that we’re a tearaway teenager

 

If there’s one thing the growing popularity of the “12 Pubs of Christmas” shows, it’s that Irish people will do whatever they can to get absolutely hammered. If that means co-opting a religious feast day, or organising a dance to signify leaving school, or buying a Christmas jumper and wandering the streets, so be it. December in Irish cities is already bananas. Restaurants introduce seasonal rules for group bookings that involve the delivery of one’s first born to secure a table on Friday night. Shops heave with present-buyers making their lists and checking them twice. Friends create schedules with precision, making sure everyone you’ve known gets a look-in and a Christmas pint before the 25th. To add the 12 Pubs on top of that is ludicrous.

For anyone still in the dark about this born-again “tradition”, the 12 Pubs of Christmas is a pub crawl where within each of 12 establishments a drink must be consumed. Different groups have different rules: time limits, forfeits, extra shots, different songs, bell-ringing and so on. But the general rules are common to all, and seem designed to amplify a sense of obnoxiousness that has no consideration not only for each other’s livers but also for the idea of decent socialising itself.


Tipping point
It’s interesting to examine how the 12 Pubs got so popular. A tipping point in the last few years moved the activity beyond something that happened in isolated cases, with friends meeting up for the festive period, to a one-size-fits-all booze orgy. Now that the backlash has already started there is also an awful lot of snobbery about the 12 Pubs. Snarky comments on Twitter with people at pains to point out that the 12 Pubs is not cool, the eye-rolls at the cheesiness of Christmas jumpers and the general intolerance that being able to comment about stuff online has taught us should mean the 12 Pubs would vanish from our December evenings. But it won’t.

It’s silly and mean-spirited to give out about people having fun. There’s no issue with friends getting together and having a few drinks at Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with getting into the spirit of things and wearing a bright Christmas jumper, a sartorial choice that has now excelled beyond irony and has embraced the sheer fun of it. What is concerning is our national problem with consumption in general.

We obviously have a common problem with alcohol, considering our intake, but the 12 Pubs highlights what the real issue is. It’s not drinking, it’s hedonism. The issue with alcohol can also be transmuted to Ireland’s cocaine years when, the minute we had too much money to know what to do with, use rocketed. It could also be used to explain the high level of ecstasy and amphetamine use. Our hedonism also feeds into the legacy and continuation of a serious heroin problem. Given the opportunity we go wild. If the opportunity doesn’t present itself we invent “traditions” that become lenses through which we can view extraordinarily irresponsible behaviour and call it “craic”.

Irish hedonism is both the articulation of and yearning for immaturity. If there is such a thing as the personality of a country, you’d have to say that we’re a tearaway teenager, still looking over our shoulder to see if the guardian authority is catching us, taking every opportunity to dodge fairs, nick something small, get a free drink, flash headlights when cops are ahead. The disposition that we’re getting away with something still lingers, and while its heyday has passed it has re-emerged even in the political rhetoric about a new post-bailout dawn, a rhetoric that spins so much invented optimism that you’d really have to think the European strategy for Ireland is to talk ourselves out of recession.

Encountering 12 Pubs participants is unpleasant. Small, quiet pubs get overtaken by flashmobs of rowdy people grabbing one drink each, disrupting regular customers and turning quiet evenings into something akin to a college football tailgating atmosphere.

The decreasing age of those involved is rather frightening. If any 17- or 18-year-old thinks it’s appropriate to drink 12 pints in quick succession on a night out, just because groups of older people who should know better are doing it, that’s a serious problem. If you’re using a false “tradition” to encourage and instil into an annual event binge drinking and the structures that facilitate it, how can you rant and rave about the drain on the health service and the vomit on the footpaths?


Teenage bruisers
Standing outside the Clarence Hotel in Temple Bar in Dublin on Thursday evening, groups of 12 Pubs drinkers passed by with an alarming frequency. At one stage I was slammed against the wall by a bunch of teenage bruisers too drunk to even notice they were knocking people off the footpath as they barrelled past.

About 20 minutes later another group of young men refused to apologise as one of their group drunkenly swayed in my direction, slamming his foot on mine. Christmas jumpers and hats and twinkling lights might give the 12 Pubs the illusion of harmlessness but it is motivated by and results in sinister idiocy. No piece of “craic” or economic benefit for pubs should be tolerated on that basis.

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