Pity Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
The dashing Humphrey spent years and fortunes enriching Queen and country by pressing England’s colonization of North America in the 16th century only to have his achievements buried under the celebrity of his little brother and publicity savvy clothes horse, Sir Walter Raleigh, whose principal accomplishments were losing track of the Lost Colony of Roanoke and getting filthy rich exporting tobacco from lands Gilbert pioneered.
December’s like that.
From daybreak on the Feast of St. Grwst until the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, our 12th month is chock full of hard-working holidays with a lot to offer a fest-hungry nation if only they could break free from the tinseled tyranny of Christmastide. In fact, there are no end of annual observances packed onto the calendar’s last page, and yet most people still view December as little more than 31 dizzying days of carols, cookies, credit card debt and really bad TV specials followed by a hangover. It just ain’t so, though, and people with room in their hearts and datebooks for something besides a single jingle-bell Juggernaut will find within the merriest month alternative amusements aplenty.
Besides providing an opportunity to recall the many presumed contributions of St. Grwst, for example, Dec. 1 is also National Pie Day and, with a commendable eye toward dietary balance, Eat a Red Apple Day. Falling on the first Friday in December this year, the 1st was also National Salesperson Day, which service-oriented theme flowed naturally into Bartender Appreciation Day, observed on the first Saturday of the month, which one might have appropriately celebrated on Dec. 2 by raising a glass to National Rhubarb Vodka Day.
Since the United Nations has named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and since December is designated as Worldwide Food Service Safety Month, value-minded folks who celebrated International Volunteer Day for Social and Economic Development on Dec. 5 could rightly claim a three-fer. Value-minded folks who like to economize on personal cleaning products may have preferred to observe Dec. 5 as the arguably more festive Bathtub Party Day.
On Dec. 6, a few dollars and a few minutes are that’s needed to celebrate both National Pawnbrokers Day and Microwave Oven Day.
Some of the thousands observing Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day each Dec. 8 act as if they’re from the future and treat modern technologies with exaggerated disdain. Other Time Travelers spend the day making like they’re from the past and regarding even dated mechanical contrivances like electric can openers and dumb-phones as objects of reverent wonder. Many others who find dated contrivances genuinely wondrous hold the phone until Dewey Decimal System Day on Dec. 10.
If most of those self-described holidays sound decidedly unofficial, it’s because they decidedly are. Except for the very few national anniversaries so designated by Act of Congress, almost every “Day” of the year is just somebody’s pet obsession that happened to catch some small piece of the public fancy. But if no government agency exists to certify all those half-baked holidays, since Popcorn Day in 2013 the diligent men and woman of National Day Calendar have done their best to impose a veneer of rationality upon an increasingly congested yearbook. The organization currently recognizes well over a 1,000 national days, and if that seems like a lot consider that each year it receives about 10,000 requests for calendar space and typically denies all but a handful. It’s also worth noting that the growing catalog of jump-up jubilees has largely been compiled during the last 25 years and can be attributed almost entirely to the Internet’s ability to connect folks who share a common fixation. That we aren’t plagued by an endless succession of sappy celebrations that start with the words “Hug a…” can be attributed almost entirely to National Day Calendar.
If no parades hindered Centennial State traffic on Dec. 11, it could be because too many people spent National Mountain Day in their kitchens performing whatever arcane rites are expected of the faithful on National Noodle Ring Day. December 13th is enshrined on the calendar as Ice Cream and Violins Day, so named because on Dec. 13, 1903, Italo Marchiony patented a machine to mold ice cream cups, and on Dec. 13 more than a hundred years later rock violinist Ben Lee broke a world record by playing his instrument at more than 14 notes per second.
Conceived and popularized in 2000 by Michigan State University art students Casey Sorrow and Eric Millikin to celebrate “all things simian,” National Monkey Day has grown into a globe-spanning holiday that shares its love equally between all non-human primates including apes, tarsiers and lemurs. Take part in National Underdog Day, Dec. 15, by rooting for the worst team in any league. Get the most out of Barbie and Barney Backlash Day on Dec. 16 by parking your kid in front of the TV and treating yourself to 24 hours free of repetitive sing-a-longs and tedious story re-telling.
Dec. 18 is Answer the Telephone Like Buddy the Elf Day. National Hard Candy Day comes but once a year on Dec. 19, and on Dec. 20 one can observe Mudd Day by telling anybody who’ll listen that Dr. Samuel Mudd, who in 1865 set the broken leg of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth and was sent to prison for it, got a bum rap. Whether or not they celebrate it, most people can appreciate the motivation behind Humbug Day, Dec. 21, and scheduling Re-gifting Day on the Thursday before Christmas is simply good sense.
A whole day just for Haikus.
How did that happen?
There are 103 national days in December, a glory-starved gallery of second-string saturnalias culminating with the self-explanatory Leap Second Time Adjustment Day on Dec. 31. Many of them are silly, many others are at least half serious, few require much in the way of time, money or emotional investiment, and none of them get the respect they deserve. If you were wondering why Underdog Day falls during the same month as the year’s uncontested holiday heavyweight, just ask Sir Humphrey.