I wonder if there is a single day left during the year in which we are not as a nation officially celebrating something.
First we start with our national holidays such as Christmas, Independence Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving, to which we add the holidays that were created to stimulate the retail economy, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day and the less popular Grandparents’ Day.
Think about how much feature news coverage revolves around these days: Thanksgiving in homeless shelter stories; school classes visiting seniors in retirement homes to perform Christmas pageants; reunions of old battalions on Memorial Day.
It’s more than the news, though: How many regular TV programs air holiday-themed shows? Most series; even “Married with Children” and “The Sopranos” had a Christmas story or two.
What’s the theme of the stuff on sale in stores during each major holiday? What shapes the enrichment activities at schools? What are the special menu features in restaurants? The Pops concert? The major holiday at hand typically imbues all of these cultural phenomena.
More than people realize, a major holiday determines the rhythm by which we live during its annual ascendancy.
But the calendar is also cluttered with lesser events, days and months that industries, organizations and governmental bodies have created as part of educational or propaganda campaigns. None of these special days and months claim the undivided attention of our society as Christmas or Mother’s Day do, but each takes a piece, be it as coverage in a newspaper story, a parade downtown, a plug by the local weather personality, a school project, a display in the supermarket or mall, a platform for releasing a study or holding a news conference, a recognition sign on the big electronic board at a football game, or a march for which you are asked to walk or contribute.
Here is a short list of days and months I came up with, many from projects on which my public relations agency is currently working for clients, others the results of my two-minute one-person brainstorm:
- “Light Up” Night
- “First Night”
- “Take Child to Work” Day
- Black History Month
- Chemical Day
- Earth Day
- Gay Pride Day
- Mental Health Month
- National Asthma and Allergy Month
- National Bike Month
- National Cancer Awareness Day
- National Cat Day
- National Dog Day
- National Day of Prayer
- National Day of Service
- National Day of Silence
- National Diabetes Awareness Month
- National Poetry Month
- National Senior Health & Fitness Day
- National Stroke Awareness Month
- United Nations Day
- World AIDS Awareness Day
- World Autism Awareness Day
- World Diabetes Day
Every disease, every industry and every cause has its own day. And for each of these days and months, a group of pretty talented marketing people are coming up with ideas to promote the ideals of the day or to use the day as a platform for promoting their product or name. And so the spinmeisters spin off stories in the news media, press conferences, special videos, product introductions, concerts, walks, parades, readings, marathons, street fairs, races, bake sales, service learning projects (short projects in which children learn to volunteer) and other special events that fill the time of the people who participate. Everyone, even Jews and Moslems, find their lives structured by Christmas or Thanksgiving. While only a sliver of the population will finds its daily rhythm in Gay Pride Day or United Nations Day, between all of these days upon days upon days, virtually everyone will be affected by several of them on an annual basis, certainly everyone who has children or works with people who do.
This accumulation of annual structuring of time lends a Reaganistic rigidity and formality to society similar to the move to the right in religious practice for virtually all religions in the United States. It also gives each day and month a special symbolic meaning, a brand, similar to what saint days traditionally did in Catholic countries. Of course, this being 21st century America, the mission of the branded day is not to bring the people closer to their god or aid in their self-perfection, but to make them open their wallets and buy something useless, like an Earth Day tee-shirt or a little plastic poodle that says National Dog Day 2008.
If someone can identify a day that hasn’t been taken yet, let me know and we’ll declare it National “Let’s Celebrate Nothing” Day.