If every day is a holiday, is any day really that special? The answer, especially if you’re on social media, seems to be a resounding yes.
The sheer number of “holidays” people celebrate — and by celebrate, that mostly means tweet — is staggering. (There are only 10 federal holidays in the United States, after all.)
On Friday, for example, #NationalCameraDay was a trending term on Twitter. Saturday was National Meteor Watch Day, and on Tuesday, you can celebrate Compliment Your Mirror Day by practicing self-acceptance and telling yourself you are beautiful and strong.
But where do these offbeat holidays come from? And are they legitimate?
While organizations and companies invent a lot of them, the majority come from people and yes, many are better vetted than you might think.
Chase’s Calendar of Events, a reference book, chronicles and verifies more than 12,500 special events, holidays, historic anniversaries and federal and state observances. For instance, July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month and National Ice Cream Month, which was first designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Chase’s has been around since 1957. In 1958, the United States government, which used to issue a pamphlet called “Special Days, Weeks and Months,” basically said to Chase’s: “Here, you do this.”
“The government used to compile this, and then they got tired of it, so they asked Chase’s to take it over,” said Holly McGuire, a senior editor at Chase’s.
Back then, “it was pretty much all commercial related, such as Dairy Week or National Fur Week, and it was all to promote products,” Ms. McGuire said. Raisin Day, for example, began in the early 1900s, she said.
Now, the dates run the gamut.
The publication divides the events into holidays — the religious, civic or folkloric — and what it calls special days, which can be advocacy, quirky or promotional days.
Each spring, Chase’s editors comb through thousands of new entries. If you submit a holiday to Chase’s, be prepared to provide contact information that will be shared publicly.
Chase’s tends to be conservative with handing out spots, Ms. McGuire said. “We don’t list days in our annual reference until we can satisfy ourselves on criteria, such as authoritativeness, permanence, etc.”
“We’re like a dictionary,” she continued. “An observance may be floating around for a couple of years before we put it in the book. We are assessing whether it’s really got traction or not.”
Ms. McGuire acknowledged that social media has influenced its mission.
“Our work is more complicated because we’ve got all of cyberspace to hunt,” she said. She emphasized that a major problem is a glut of holiday websites.
“I see a lot of days where there is no stakeholder or owner credited, and I think that could be a problem for the general public because I think you have a right to know if something is halfway legitimate,” she said. “It’s a shame.”
What may come as a surprise, she said, is that “a lot of people still do things the old-fashioned way” by asking a City Council, mayor or governor to proclaim a day.
Could someone get a holiday off the ground without any external backing? Definitely, maybe now more than ever, Ms. McGuire said. “We don’t want to stifle,” she said. “Really there’s nothing stopping anybody from doing this.”
And nothing has stopped Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith, of Chicago, who has been creating holidays — or “holidates,” as she calls them — for more than 25 years. She’s already invented more than 1,900, she said.
“Since I model myself after Aesop from ‘Aesop’s Fables,’ I consider these holidates to be a story with a moral attached,” Ms. Koopersmith said.
Her most recognizable one, she said, is National Splurge Day, on June 18, which she created in 1994, in which celebrants are encouraged to do something good for themselves.
She said traditional holidays began to bore her in 1990. “I could not bear to go through another year of the typical, traditional, religious, corny and patriotic holidays,” she said.
It wasn’t until after she was attacked and robbed at her apartment building two days before Christmas in 1991 that she turned her feeling into a hobby, and then into a mission: giving others a reason to pause and celebrate.
By throwing themselves into a holiday of their choice, people can pull “themselves away from whatever problem, issue, strife, insufficiency was persistent in their life,” she said. “Just for a day. It’s a start.”