Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, the one day a year when everybody wants to be Irish! Which is interesting — given that Irish history is a litany of famine, conquest, rebellion, exploitation, betrayal, some more famine, mass emigration, civil war, bombings, assassination, another famine, whiskey, guns, God, and a particularly vigorous branch of the Catholic Church. (But that’s a story for another time.) Personally, I think most people celebrate St. Paddy’s Day because they’ve have been sucked in by the myth that the Irish drink a lot, and they just want to get in on some of the action. I have no idea where the world got the impression that Ireland is basically 5 million alcoholics, clinging to a rock in the north Atlantic — I’m looking at you, Hollywood — but it just isn’t true. And today’s as good a day as any to shoot that fairy tale in the head and bury it in the back garden.
Disclaimer: I’ve been known to throw back an adult beverage or two in my time, so I cast no aspirations on any country, region, ethnic or religious group — and if they’re eagerly offended, it’s their own damn fault!
No, the Irish are not the biggest drinkers in the world. (They aren’t even in the top ten.) According to no less an authority that the British media outlet The Telegraph, the biggest boozers on Earth are the good citizens of Belarus. I’ve never been to Belarus, but I’ve seen bits of it on TV and quite frankly — I’d drink, too. After that, the top ten have all the usual suspects — Lithuania (#3), Russia (#4), Romania (#5), Ukraine (#6) — and a couple of surprises, Moldova (#2) and Andorra (#7.) I have no idea where Moldova is, but I assume it’s a scrubby little country east of the Balkans, and Andorra is basically a handful of mountains stuck between France and Spain. Quite frankly, if I was sitting on a mountain, looking at the politics of those two, I’d be tempted to pull a cork or three — and that’s exactly what goes on in that part of the Pyrenees. It turns out, that, per capita, the folks in Andorra drink more wine than anyone else on the planet. However, they’re not that far ahead of #2, Vatican City, which, coincidently, also has more priests per square centimetre than anywhere else in the world — which probably makes “morning after” confession a piece of cake. The other weird one in the top ten list of wine drinkers is the Falkland Islands — although it’s not surprising. After all, what do you do in the Falklands? Watch the wind blow and hope to hell it isn’t full of Argentineans — again?
Actually, the only place Ireland even figures into the top ten of drinking anything is beer. However, they’re only #7 — substantially behind the Czech Republic (#1) and another couple of rowdies, the Seychelles (#2) and Namibia (#5.) The Seychelles are about 100 strips of sand, half- submerged in the Indian Ocean, so I imagine there are a ton of drunken tourists upping their numbers — but Namibia? Good, bad or indifferent, Namibia normally never comes up on the panel. About the only thing I can say, with any confidence, about Namibia is they drink beer — a lot more than the Irish.
So tomorrow, if you feel the need, have a Green Beer or a Guinness or whatever your pleasure, but if you want to sop hops with the big boys, wait a couple of days until March 21st. That’s Namibia’s Independence Day, and the truth is those folks know how to drink!