Festive Fizz and Holiday Hangovers: How Christmas Celebrations Fuel Alcohol Consumption
Levels of alcohol consumption shoot up over the holidays. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States tells us that a quarter of the $49 billion-a-year distilled spirits industry’s profits come from the month between Thanksgiving and New Year. That’s a whole lot of booze crammed into not very much time. In the US the average person sees their spending on alcohol double between Christmas and New Year's.
Overindulging over the holidays is an easy thing to do–it’s practically expected. Moderation isn’t on anyone’s mind, partly because there’s the assumption that we’ll just make up for the damage in January. In Australia a recent study found that the highest levels of drinking over the holiday period occurred on the last workday before Christmas, it speculated that people got the rounds in so spectacularly before they got off work for Xmas because they knew they would have plenty of time to recover. Seize the day—and the champagne—is the rule, the hangover is a problem for future you.
None of this should come as much surprise. Getting together and getting drunk is one of the cornerstones of human civilization and doing it in the harsh winter months is at the core of numerous pagan practices that we’ve woven into religious and cultural traditions over the millennia.
Whilst most people aren’t generally sticklers for the details of their drinking patterns, we do recognise the uptick in pints and Prosecco as December ticks down to New Year’s. A study by Drinkaware in 2019 in the UK found that 61% of drinkers felt that they’d overdone it during the festive season, with 29% feeling pressured to drink around colleagues at work, 16% regretting the things they’d gotten up to at work parties, and 10% said they avoided social events altogether to escape drinking pressure.
It’s not a binary choice between overdoing it and abstinence of course–at least not anymore. Statistics show that integrating low and no-alcohol drinking into our regular consumption patterns is on the rise. In 2020 around 25% of UK drinkers “semi-regularly” consumed low and no-alcohol products, this rose to 32% by 2022. People don’t appear to be turning away from booze, rather we’re mixing it up a bit. The next stage on this journey of conscious consumption should be obvious: functional low and no products, because we turn to alcohol for good reasons: it feels good, so alternatives that don’t aren’t likely to satisfy most of us.
This year, perhaps swap out Santa’s sherry for a Sentia: sans alcohol, but full of spirit!