Good Friday Alcohol Ban – Some reflections– Clare Champion
Good Friday – a special day for Christians
Good Friday is a special day in the Christian calendar as it commemorates the death of our Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. It is special day of mourning and a day that many Christians attend devotions; Stations of the Cross, Veneration of the Cross, Proclamation of the Passion of Jesus Christ and the distribution of Holy Communion. Traditionally, because of the importance of the day and because it was the penultimate day of Lent when many people had been abstaining from alcohol, public houses were closed in sympathy with this important commemoration. For years it was for many an alcohol free day, a family day, a day that people were free to attend religious devotions and observe the sacred character of the day, a day of fast and abstinence.
Recent Changes to Good Friday Traditions
In recent years it had been argued that the old reality in Ireland had changed, with the decline in religious practice and the influx of people from other cultures, religions and none. It was argued that publicans, the tourist industry, sporting events and regular pub customers were being negatively impacted because of the Good Friday restriction on the sale of alcohol. The outcome of that campaign around this resulted in the lifting of the ban for the first time this year.
Still open for business
Despite this, many Catholics will still observe the long standing approach of abstaining from alcohol and visiting pubs on Good Friday, observe the traditional approach of attending devotions and ensuring the day is kept as a family day. In Churches all over it is one of the best attended and most meaningful days for many people as they can relate, through experience to the consolation offered and challenge given by the redemptive suffering of Jesus out of love for us.
Some issues worthy of reflecion
While not attempting to challenge or oppose this new approach in order to address a changing reality and a demand by some, the new regulation does however throw up a number of issues worth reflecting on.
Resistance of Some Rural Publicans
It is of interest that publicans in some villages in rural Ireland have opted not to go along with the change and have decided to ignore the change. They contend that in their locality there is no demand for the change, for that one special day of the year and argue that it would impact negatively on themselves, as publicans as it was traditionally a day off in the trade. They have also argued that it would upset the harmony of many families who often used the opportunity of the day in question to be together for that special day.
Good Friday and Christmas Day – Unique Family Days
Many others, while reflecting on this topic make the point that the only two unique family days in our jurisdiction are Christmas day and Good Friday and with the demise of Good Friday, it is now just a matter of time that Christmas day will succumb to the demands of commercial pressure in the same manner.
Ireland and the Problem of Alcoholism
It is well worth reflecting on and perhaps an issue of great urgency to assess anew our relationship with alcohol as Irish people. It is a well known fact that as a nation we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, habitual binge drinking being the norm for some and the negative impact of this is rarely addressed to any degree of seriousness. Perhaps it is topic that could profitably be addressed with more diligence by Civil, State, Church and Educational authorities. Could it be more in the nation’s interest to be proposing and encouraging more alcohol free days, rather than abandoning the few that already exist?
Excessive consumption of alcohol regarded as the norm
One hears so often in conversation and anecdote of the vast amount of alcohol being regularly consumed and unfortunately young people see this as the norm and often get drawn into a drink culture from a very young age. In recent days – during the festivities of the national holiday weekend, while much of the celebration associated with the event was so joyful, happy and appropriate it was also regrettable to see the dependence on alcohol in many locations and that this is so ingrained in the social fabric and general celebration of our citizens.
The loss of many of our unique Traditions in Ireland
One less important issue, but nevertheless worth reflecting on is the mounting pressure on our many unique Irish traditions to conform, adapt and often to make way completely to new ideas. Often this is a positive and welcome change but it might not always be. Many visitors come to Ireland for the uniqueness of our lifestyle, for the different way we have of doing things, to sample our time honoured, local traditions and way of life and I just wonder if the loss of our distinctive characteristics in the name of progress is always a good thing?