The existence of "Black Eye Friday" suggests that Britain can't hold its drink

It's meant to be the booziest, most violent day of the year

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How’s your head this morning? If it’s thumping, you are not alone. Indeed, if that’s the only thing that hurts, you are one of the lucky ones.

Last night was “Black Eye Friday”, the latest in the Advent calendar of made-up days designed to make people consume things. “Black Eye Friday” follows “Black Friday” (Thou shalt bargain-hunt and brawl), “Cyber Monday” (Thou shalt browse “Gifts for Men” on Amazon) and “Christmas Jumper Day” (Thou shalt pretend to colleagues thou hast a fun side). Today is “Panic Saturday” (Thou shalt lay waste to the aisles of John Lewis). And we still have, I think, “Might As Well Have a Pub Lunch Monday” and “Train Hell Tuesday” to go before the festive season proper begins.

“Black Eye Friday” is probably the worst of a bad bunch. It refers to the most drunken night of the year, the Friday before Christmas when a pile-up of work events, parties, hangovers and the prospect of a week or two off combine in a big, boozy mess. For some, inevitably, it ends in fighting and a trip to A&E. Alcohol consumption on Black Eye Friday jumps 114 per cent compared with an average Friday. According to figures released by Public Health England, £3.7bn was spent on alcohol in December last year, 25 per cent more than in November.

The knock-on effects? It’s hard to know where to start: cash squandered, productivity dented, liver damaged, reputations tattered, not to mention the strain on emergency services, called on to mop up the fisticuffs and vomit. Last December in London there were almost 6,200 alcohol-related ambulance call-outs, or more than 200 a day.

And now, it seems festive binge-drinking is also killing off Midnight Mass. According to a survey carried out by the Catholic newspaper The Tablet, this Christmas 50 deaneries are holding their traditional nocturnal services as early as 5pm or dropping them altogether as a result of drunken behaviour. Some churches have been forced to put bouncers on the door to stop raucous boozers from getting in, ruining the carols or, as happened in York last year, streaking through the pews.


All of this suggests that the nation frequently referred to as Booze Britain cannot really handle a drink. Certainly the usual rules go out of the window as soon as the first door on the Advent calendar has opened. In Plymouth, one landlord has had enough and drawn up a set of dos and don’ts for festive drinkers, which has gone viral on social media because there is nothing the British like more than making rules for drinking.

For the most part they are precisely the kind of cantankerous shtick that makes the nation’s pubs great or awful, depending on what mood you are in. Don’t ask for cranberry juice. Or for a cocktail you saw on Sex and the City. Or for a whisky you saw on Mad Men. And never, ever ask for a hot chocolate. Don’t arrive as a group and pay separately. Don’t wave your money around in the air. Hot girls get served first. “There are no ‘Official Rules of Queuing at the Bar’. The bartender is 100 per cent in charge of who is next”, and so on. In other words, the proprietor of the Stoke Inn despises those Johnny-come-latelys who flood to his pub during December, doubling his takings, because they spoil it for the hardy perennials who drink there all year round. “Whether it’s the Christmas work do or a festive drink with friends, you are ruining pubs for the rest of us. Everyone hates you.”

In the interests of balance, then, a few things that might irk those on the busy side of the bar, the ones waving the banknotes around like “Parisian café pricks”. Don’t start putting up posters saying “HAVE YOU BOOKED YOUR CHRISTMAS PARTY YET?” in September; no wonder people arrive in December, utterly hyped up. Don’t make people spend over £10 if they are paying by credit card; that way an early trip under the table lies. Similarly, don’t serve wine by default in goblets the size of a bath. And don’t roll your eyes when someone asks for a glass of water; they might be trying to be sensible.

Not that any of this really matters. The showy sanctimony of Dry January is just around the corner. And once that is out of the way, the whole sorry build-up to a boozy December can, and will, begin again. Cheers.