On Saturday, thousands of people from Greater Binghamton came out for Parade Day. Reverence to the tradition almost always goes hand in hand with long days celebrating and drinking beers.
Holidays like Parade Day, similar to classic festivals, have their roots across generations of cultures and throughout the world. They carry the chalice as well: They are almost always synonymous with social-alcohol indulgences. Merry celebrations drenched in alcohol may even stem from the celebration of alcohol itself.
Beer, one of the world’s oldest drinks, dates back to the Neolithic period. This shift, 10,000 years back in time, is a milestone in human history. According to some archeologists, the discovery of fermenting grains or barleys, beer’s primary ingredients, could have spawned the dawn of agricultural civilizations.
Early civilizations, like the Mesopotamians and ancient Egyptians, lived with far fewer means than we utilize in the U.S. today, so they had to live resourcefully. Fermented drinks were deemed an elixir for all human ailments. Those in pain drank alcohol to relieve suffering: in hunger, to satiate; in thirst, to hydrate; in sickness, to rest.
Celebrations in unison with long day drinks are ways early people could have expressed their praise to the drink itself, the health of their people and, of course, abundant crops from the land.
Earlier societies placed significantly higher value on the land because they saw the connections between what the land could yield and what pleasures, like fermented drinks, could be contrived. We cultivate everything that is actually important to human survival from land: tools, clothing, bathing and fuel, as well as food, water and shelter, to name a few. Yet, in recent decades, we have taken these resources for granted. Who’s to be sure where their beer was grown and whether those farmers were stewards of this planet?
When we think about what it means to let civilization push into the third millennium, lessons from early civilizations may prove valuable. Their impact on their local environments could hardly be felt compared to industrialized nations today. The way we produce the very things essential to our lives — our high-definition TVs, SUVs, caramel soy lattes and smartphones — have no consistency with being able to support future generations of humans. Those earlier civilians may have worked harder for their beer, but their festivals lasted days longer than ours do, and the grains from their own backyards must have tasted a lot better than ours.
It’s worth celebrating that we are part of a planet that allows us to cultivate our own beer. Humans utilized the environment to produce a drink so potently packed with clean water, energy and liquid morale that it drove people to cooperate with the land and one another. It’s a turning point in mankind that has forever altered history.
It is in our human heritage to come together for Parade Day, but it’s our responsibility for the future generations to be able to sustain long traditions of this nature. For the love of long days drinking and good cheer, let’s remember that the human condition will forever depend on the health of the environment first.