Despite still being in the midst of a pandemic, people did not hold back for 2021 Christmas celebrations. There were plenty of Christmas and holiday parties, and with these parties, as is an eventuality, we saw the consumption of an absurd amount of booze.
Sri Lankans are not shy about their alcohol intake and unfortunately, there were several reported incidents of destructive occurrences taking place caused by inebriated people contributing to things getting out of hand. There was a recent reported incident where a youth was stabbed to death during a Christmas party where they had organised a Christmas party with alcohol along with a group of friends.
Getting drunk at parties is certainly not strange, although in Sri Lanka, it is interesting to see that despite the country having plunged into incredibly difficult times economically, with everyone complaining about how truly difficult it is to make ends meet, there appeared to be no slowing down with the general consumption of alcohol
Why is it a must?
The social norm of drinking at parties is something experienced the world over, but in Sri Lanka, we have a culture of aggressive drinking at parties – to the point where limits are scarcely observed where people drink till they quite literally black out.
Speaking to counselling psychologist Dr. Kanthi Hettigoda, she addressed this phenomenon of limitless drinking amongst Sri Lankans, especially during the holidays. She shared that one of the primary reasons why alcohol is such a staple at festivities and why it plays such a significant role is that often the experience of consuming alcohol is equated with happiness. “Alcohol has become synonymous with happiness and a good time,” she said.
Dr. Hettigoda also noted that with this association comes the many reasons why people drink. She said the first is due to loneliness, then to counter exhaustion, and also due to peer pressure to avoid becoming a social pariah.
She also pointed out that in Sri Lanka, it is a male-dominant thing to do and often masculinity is heavily reliant on being able to drink and on being a drinker. “Even in the military you see that pressuring your fellow officers to drink is so common,” Dr. Hettigoda said. Men in the island have developed this social norm where you must drink and being able to drink gives you a certain level of credit as an alpha male.
Almost always gets out of hand
Speaking about the reason why drinking often always gets out of hand, counselling psychologist Dr. Kalharie Pitigala shared that there is a serious lack of awareness – not only amongst the youth, but also amongst adults – about the healthy consumption of alcohol.
“There is no knowledge of how to consume alcohol only to the point where it is pleasurable and not to the point of losing consciousness,” she said. There are certain elements when it comes to drinking – not just preference, but also biology – Dr. Pitigala noted, adding that we do not often take into consideration that not everyone can consume and react to alcohol in the same way. Then, of course, there is the fact that people do not have the habit or even knowledge of dealing with alcohol poisoning and other health complications that come with overconsumption of alcohol, or even to identify when one has reached their limit.
Dr. Pitigala said that binge drinking is so common amongst young boys and this habit of uncontrolled drinking is what lends itself to adulthood.
The culture of binge drinking during celebrations is an unfortunate reality that has embedded itself into our social norms. However, there is a serious lack of awareness on the importance of developing a healthy relationship with alcohol and the fact of enjoying life without being under the influence.