By Chris Goff
On January 15th, the United States honored Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a great man, a Baptist minister and a social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement. Through peaceful protest, he sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice. He was a driving force behind events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington, and he helped bring
about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Then, in 1968, he was assassinated, his life tragically cut short. To honor his legacy, in 1986 his birthday was declared a national holiday. Happy Birthday!
There are 11 federal holidays.
To be fair, some are more controversial than others. But, one thing they all do is guarantee our federal employees eleven paid days off a year.
The original four holidays are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (which was ruled by the Supreme Court as a “secular” holiday, to be recognized for its cultural significance). These were soon followed by George Washington’s Birthday (now President’s Day), Decoration Day (now Memorial Day), Labor Day and Armistice Day (now Veteran’s Day). All of them celebrated on specific dates, until someone came up with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Brilliant! Passed in 1968, it established “floating” dates for many of the holidays, so they would always fall on Monday, giving federal employees a number of three-day weekends.
The Act also marked the creation of Columbus Day (now known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, depending on where you live). Then, in 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established, followed in 2021 by our newest federal holiday, Juneteenth National Independence Day commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
So what about the other 354 days of the year?
Not to worry! Turns out there are 365 funny, random and weird holidays listed on calendars for those who want to celebrate something year round. My uncle was one of those people. He and my aunt celebrated every single day of their lives. Me, I selected a few favorites to share:
January 3 – Fruitcake Toss Day. Every year we are gifted fruitcake by my nephews, made using the recipe of Great Uncle Wes. And every year on Jan 3, I toss the foil wrapped packages in the trash. They are wasted on me. But in Manitou Springs, Colorado, a few hundred people gather to hurl hundreds of fruitcakes into the air by hand, cannon, or slingshot. Started by a small group of friends holding a friendly competition in a local park, it has blossomed into an annual event.
February 2 – Work Naked Day. Speaks for itself. Probably best not to schedule a Zoom meeting.
March 16 – Everything You Do Is Right Day. I love this. Basically, just be happy. You’re making the right choices for you today. If offsets March 15 – Everything You Think is Wrong Day. That one is designed to make you think about what you’re doing and saying, in hopes that we can all acknowledge we don’t know everything, and we all make mistakes.
April 12 – Yuri’s Night. This honors space exploration, commemorating the day Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space. Maybe visit a space museum, watch Apollo 13, go stargazing.
May 13 – Frog Jumping Day. Rumor has it this was to celebrate a short story named “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” by Mark Twain. Suggestions are to jump around like a frog, go see frogs jump and/or read the story.
June 7 – VCR Day. Does anyone still own a VCR player? I have a box of VCR tapes I can send you. One interesting fact is, the first VCR, the VRX-1000, put out in 1956 by American electronics company Ampex was listed for a whopping $50,000.
July 19 – Clerihew Day. A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem of a type invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person, and the remainder puts the subject in an absurd light or reveals something unknown or spurious about the subject. The lines usually rhyme.
Grandad is a silly old goat.
He tries, but he can’t sing a note.
The baby, though, shows some great sense.
She goes to sleep in her own defense.
August 9 – Book Lover’s Day. Again, speaks for itself.
September 16 – Collect Rocks Day. My daughter, Mardee, collects rocks. So does my husband. When we moved recently, we lugged at least three plastic bins of rocks to our new home. Some are special. Some just look like rocks to me.
October 2 – Phileas Fogg Wager Day. This holiday celebrates key events in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. In the 1873 novel, Fogg makes a wager of 20,000 Pounds to circumnavigate the earth in 80 days. (Note: some say the day is observed on December 21, the day Fogg must complete his voyage to win.)
November 7 – Men Make Dinner Day. Funny, in our house, my husband makes dinner nearly every day. It wasn’t always that way, but I’m good with the swap.
December 7 – Letter Writing Day. It’s nice to write letters. It’s nice to get letters. With the advance of technology, the art of physically writing a letter is quickly becoming a lost art. I’m all for reviving the practice.
In truth, a lot of the “holidays” sounded like fun. Some of those honored seemed worthy. Take Emma Nutt, the first female telephone operator. Prior to her, they were all men, mostly deemed impatient and rude to customers. So, on September 1, 1987, Alexander Grahm Bell himself appointed Emma to the job. Her career lasted 35 years.
Readers, I’d love to know your favorite holidays. And, please, send me your Clerihews!
Chris Goff is the award-winning author of eight novels—six mysteries and two international thrillers. Her books have been finalists for Colorado Book Awards, Colorado Authors’ League Awards and Willa Cather Awards. In 2016, her debut thriller, Dark Waters, was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Crime Audiobook and took home a gold medal from the Military Writer’s Society of America. A former journalist, Goff is a long-standing member of multiple writing organizations and currently serves on the executive board of the International Association of Crime Writers. When not hard at work, she can often be found gallivanting around the world in search of stories and adventure.
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