Saturday 1 October 2016

Happy (whatever this is) Day!

Fancy a towel day, or showering with your friend day? There's an actual holiday for that, says our writer, who is days and confused about the ever-more crowded calendar

Published 25/11/2015 | 02:30

Getting fruit-eye: don't forget that November is Pomegranate Month.
Getting fruit-eye: don't forget that November is Pomegranate Month.
pomegranate

Hooray! National Parfait Day is here again! Can it really be a whole year since the last one? Time just flies. So how are you going to celebrate National Parfait Day? I was thinking of… well, having some parfait. As Donkey says in Shrek, "You know what everybody likes? Parfait!"

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But if, for some odd reason, parfait isn't your thing, November is Pomegranate Month, Peanut Butter Lover's Month and Family Literacy Month. Ah, yes: a time of year traditionally marked by bingeing on seed-laden fruits and calorific nut-butters, while patiently teaching Granddad how to read.

No, you haven't been imagining things: there really is an incredible amount of new "holidays" in the calendar now. Once upon a time, the year was basically divided into Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Patrick's Day.

Then Valentine's gradually became a big thing, as did Mother's Day (society is still struggling to take Father's Day seriously). That was fine, it remained manageable.

Now, however, there are more made-up - and usually ridiculous - holidays than there are days in the year. Literally: the website holidayinsights.com lists 64 festival occasions for this month alone. (I had a blast during yesterday's All Our Uncles Are Monkeys Day.)

Here's a random selection, tip of the iceberg: Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, Geek Pride Day, International Bacon Day, Ask a Stupid Question Day and my favourite, System Administrator Appreciation Day. That sounds like a rockin' good time.

Many are American in origin, but in terms of pop culture, social media and sociocultural trends, the whole world is basically the US now. This explains the sight of Irish people screeching excitedly about Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Superbowl Sunday.

So what explains the biggest explosion in days since the universe was formed? I assumed that capitalism was behind the majority of them: in other words, nothing but a marketing wheeze.

That's true in many cases, but funnily, not all. Even absurd creations like System Administrator Appreciation Day, it appears, are done for the sheer joy of doing it.

National Splurge Day, for instance, was created on a whim by an American woman who had become "tremendously bored with the traditional holidays… so I created my own, which I like much better."

In a similar vein is Talk Like a Pirate Day, one of the bigg-aaahr (sorry) fake holidays. It started in 1995 as a mildly funny joke between two friends. Within a few years, it had metamorphosed into a genuine, albeit very silly, cultural phenomenon. And it still be sailing right well, me hearties.

Then there's something surreally pointless like our own Smack a Bum Day (10 days ago - tell me you didn't forget!). This spoof, running since 2012, declares itself "proudly supported by Irish Solicitors Ltd and Chocolate Smacks". It mostly consists of some vaguely humorous posters in Dublin. Nobody seems to know who's doing it, or why.

Others had a more prosaic inspiration. National Shower with a Friend Day, for instance, wasn't begun by some environmentally aware lecher, but as a marketing gimmick for a water filtration company. At home we have National Fish & Chips Day on May 27, done by the Irish Traditional Italian Chippers Association "to celebrate a 130-year-old tradition."

Michael Cullen - editor of Marketing magazine (marketing.ie), author and columnist with this paper and the Herald - reckons these new-fangled holidays are "very faddish. It's a sort of interesting gimmick, and there's probably some marketing potential, but I doubt anyone takes it too seriously. These things won't build the right image for a product, something lasting."

Some invented holidays have proved surprisingly durable, having said that. Valentine's Day, for instance, was first mentioned as far back as 1382 by Geoffrey Chaucer.

He wrote, "For this was on St Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate." Certainly beats that old dirty joke about sex being like tennis.

There are other Golden Oldies in the archives. National Donut Day dates back to 1938, when the Chicago Salvation Army honoured women's service during World War I. Mother's Day was created in 1905 by a schoolteacher in memory of her lately departed mam. Candy Day is a century old in 2016 - so sugar-addled kiddies with rotten teeth aren't a new sensation.

And they're not all irredeemably dumb. Throughout the year you can get involved with such intellectual-sounding events as Pi Day, Tolkien Reading Day, National Religious Freedom Day, Darwin Day, World Thinking Day, DNA day, and of course, the pride of Dublin and daddy of them all: Bloomsday.

Yes I said yes you can yes celebrate Bloomsday yes yes yes.

The rate of conception has definitely sped up in recent years, though. I reckon makey-uppy holidays are an inevitable by-product of social media, wherein everything must be shared, liked, favourited, retweeted and generally squeezed to within an inch of its life. If it can be hash-tagged, it will go like gangbusters among the herds online.

Michael Cullen adds, "People love that stuff. Our latest cartoon is about hash-tags, you get them everywhere. But in a funny way, maybe the soundbite culture in itself will have longevity. Maybe these kind of fads are here to stay. It is shallow, but if people enjoy it, I wouldn't knock it."

Hmm. Think I'll stick to being a "life was better back before things changed" old grouch. (By the way, National Curmudgeon Day takes place on Jan 29 - see you there.)

10 ridiculous holidays

• System Administrator Appreciation Day

• Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

• Ask a Stupid Question Day

• Edible Book Festival

• Star Wars Day

• Towel Day

• CAPS LOCK DAY

• International Free Hugs Day

• International Day of the Nacho

• National Shower with a Friend Day

Irish Independent

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