America's Drunkiest Holidays: A Versus Special Edition

Moe knows what the people like.
With St. Patrick's Day right around the corner (it's tomorrow), I've decided to give the regular Versus slap-fight a pause and use this space for my own foul ends--determining which American holiday is the drunkest on the block.

So how am I going to determine this? Guile, mostly. Wit. Made-up statistics and personal experience. This isn't a scientific survey by any means. But as I was looking at all the loads of green-tinted coverage being given to the annual drunken jerk-derby that is St. Patty's Day, it occurred to me that since the bending of elbows and the frantic consumption of alcohol is a fixture in so many of our American observances there must be some way to decide which is the most sodden.

So to wit, let's take a look at the contenders . . .

The Contenders:

St. Patrick's Day, the Great Green Hope

Cinco de Mayo, the holiday for alcoholic historians

New Year's Eve, the day regret was born

Fourth of July, because nothing goes better with beer than explosives

Thanksgiving, because drinking is cheaper than family therapy

The Stats: For both proximity and density of drinkers, St. Patty's would seem to have an obvious lock on this contest, but maybe things aren't as obvious as they seem. Just as salsa has overtaken ketchup as America's favorite condiment, Cinco de Mayo has posted a strong showing in recent years, especially in Western cities with high populations of those confused by exactly what we're supposed to be celebrating on the Fifth of May. It's the birthday of the guy who invented Corona, right?

New Year's Eve is always a big day for drinking, but most of it is concentrated around the midnight hour. Whereas the average New Year's Eve drinker doesn't really get started until the sun goes down on the actual day of the celebration, many St. Patty's Day enthusiasts will often start self-lubricating some time around March 3--just to make sure they're properly pickled by the time the parades kick off.

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite drinking days, but that's mostly for the stories that hit the newspapers on July 5: "Local Man Loses Fingers, Face After Tragic Moonshine-and-Sparklers Incident" or "Hundreds Injured After Drunken Game of 'Guess How Long I Can Hold This M-80' Goes Wrong"

And Thanksgiving? Oh, Thanksgiving . . . Mixing family, liquor, silverware, and suppressed rage is just a recipe for disaster. Hilarity, too, but mostly disaster. And sometimes the sort that can only be sorted out by SWAT teams and hostage negotiators. I mean, seriously, how many movies have been made about a family gathering for Arbor Day?

The Battle: Where you come down on this topic really has everything to do with personal experience. I mean I could throw a bunch of statistics at you about DUI arrests, domestic disturbance reports, historic riots, or calls to various 911/suicide-prevention hotlines, but those won't matter nearly as much as your memory of the year that Cousin Leon showed up lit on Thanksgiving, parked his truck on the lawn, staggered to the door with a half-eaten turkey under one arm and a bottle of Jack in his hand, barfed in Grandma's begonias, then passed out on the carpet in the parlor, all before the Macy's parade was done. No data on crowd size or pints of Guinness sold is going to affect me as much as the Christmas I was tasked with sobering up one of my relations who'd shown up twisted on PBR and Demerol, then shoveling him into the car and driving him to the annual family visit with Grandma at the nursing home.

Hell, maybe your family really throws down on Flag Day. I don't know. But since this is a versus that deals with the drunkest holiday in America--and is, therefore, looking at holiday drinking on a national scale--I'm going to have to give it to . . .

The Winner: The Fourth of July. No, really. And here's my reasoning.

The Fourth has everything a drinking holiday needs: a day off from work, a weekend attached, various promotions from major liquor and beer companies, family, food, large public gatherings, and a long span of time for the drinking to happen. Add fire, barbecue grills, and high explosives to the mix and things just get better. The only thing missing from the Fourth of July is a youth-oriented marketing push, but really, if St. Pat's is the day when all of the amateur drinkers in America come out to decorate the gutters with their green vomit, then the Fourth of July is a day for the professionals--those who have some experience with the alcoholic arts and really know how to stretch a drunk out.

There's no poll this week, so I will take all arguments in favor of other holidays (or votes in support of the Fourth) in the comments section below.

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