7:58pm

Fri June 17, 2011
Around the Nation

Time To Mark National Theme Day Appreciation Day

Today is National Theme Day Appreciation Day.

OK, we made that up. We can find no such thing. At least not on the various lists of official theme days in the United States.

But have you noticed? Americans give everything a special name — days, weeks, months.

Some are serious and draw attention to grave issues. June, for instance, is Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome Awareness Month — which puts a spotlight on a syndrome that leads to miscarriages, thrombosis, strokes and heart attacks. June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month and National Safety Month.

Other names are less serious. June is also National Bathroom Reading Month.

By presidential proclamation, June is African-American Music Month as well as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. By others' proclamations, June is Women's Golf Month, National Candy Month and Lane Courtesy Month.

Weeks have special names. This month we celebrate Men's Health Week and National Mosquito Control Awareness Week.

But Americans don't stop there. No, we name just about every day. June 15 is Nature Photography Day. June 17 is National Flip Flop Day. June 19 is Father's Day. June 20 is motorcyclists' Ride to Work Day. June 24 is Take Your Dog to Work Day and June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.

Throughout the year we have Dress Up Your Pet Day (Jan. 14); National Kazoo Day (Jan. 28); Margarita Day (Feb. 22); Dr. Seuss Day/Read Across America (March 2); High Five Day (Apr. 21); Eat What You Want Day (May 11); Walk on Stilts Day (July 27); S'mores Day (Aug. 10); Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19); Information Overload Day (Oct. 20); National Day of Listening (Nov. 25) and Monkey Day (Dec. 14).

So maybe we do need a National Theme Day Appreciation Day.

'De Facto Approver'

If we can get enough people to endorse the idea, maybe we can even get our new weird-name day on Chase's Calendar of Events — an annual compilation of special days, weeks and months.

Years ago, the Commerce Department kept a list of "approved" special holidays. June, for instance, was — and is — National Dairy Month.

In the late 1950s, the feds outsourced the task to a couple of brothers, Harrison and William Chase, who were keeping Chase's Calendar — a list of all the national celebrations, serious and not. Harrison died in 2000. William, 89, is retired and living in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Today Chase's Calendar is maintained by McGraw-Hill publishing company. It is used by libraries, greeting card purveyors, calendar creators, magazine publishers and anyone else who is looking ahead for special days.

Honorary holidays that really catch on can be marketing bonanzas. For example, the National Retail Federation is expecting more than $11 billion in sales this Father's Day.

"Since we're really the only reference book that offers a comprehensive list," says Holly McGuire of McGraw-Hill, "we have become a de facto approver, which we have mixed feelings about — since we're neutral."

She says, "It's a little tricky."

Along about the time the Chase brothers became the overlords, McGuire says, special days, weeks, and months began to expand. Advocacy days, such as World Malaria Day (April 25), and playful special days, such as Bubba Day (June 2), became popular, according to McGuire.

In times past, a sponsor of a proposed theme day would ask a local city council, state legislature, or even U.S. Congress to make a proclamation, but that system was too unwieldy, McGuire says. "And frankly, people do what they want."

She points to Talk Like a Pirate Day that was hatched as a joke between two guys, then set sail when the superhumorous Dave Barry wrote about it in a column. That caught McGraw-Hill's attention. "Since it was being celebrated," McGuire says, "we wanted to list it in the book."

McGraw-Hill doesn't list every proposed theme day. "We turn down days that are obviously made up on the spot," says McGuire, "days that are clearly just commercial ... with nothing the general public can enjoy, days from wackos ... and days that are too similar to existing days."

And does the Internet make it easier to compile Chase's Calendar every year, or more difficult? "Both!" McGuire says. "The Internet just makes our life more colorful, I guess. But since the Internet is more focused on the 'now,' it makes Chase's still relevant because we focus on 'tomorrow'."

For those who blame Hallmark for manufacturing holidays just to sell cards, the greeting card company responds on its website: "While we're honored that people so closely link the Hallmark name with celebrations and special occasions, we can't take credit for creating holidays. Congressional resolutions, proclamations, religious observances, cultural traditions, and grassroots leadership by ordinary people create these special days. It's really the public who gives occasions like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day widespread acceptance as celebration events."

However, Hallmark — and countless other folks — do take advantage of the 20 or so annual holidays recognized by most Americans.

National Hug A Journalist Moment?

The first published Chase's Calendar, for the year 1958, was 32 pages containing 364 entries. Today the list is 752 pages with more than 12,000 entries.

Has all of this month/week/day naming gotten out of hand? Sheila Cicchi doesn't think so.

Cicchi, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., also keeps track of special days of observance on her website, Brownielocks.com. Her compilation has grown considerably since she began in 1999. She updates the year's worth of observances every October.

"I have no issues with the volume of awareness or appreciation days," Cicchi says. "I have an issue with the validity of them. I know the public wants more silly ones to exist, which I think is one reason why there are so many that are fake and made up online."

But, she says, whether the theme or awareness days are for something silly or something more somber "I think they're fun and help us all stop and appreciate life."

And as time continues to contract, everything moves faster and faster and the national attention span gets shorter and shorter, surely we will eventually be celebrating shorter increments — hours, minutes, seconds. Stay tuned for National Robot Rust Awareness Hour and Extraterrestrial Appreciation Minute.

So, rather than call for a National Theme Day Appreciation Day, maybe we should make it a National Theme Day Appreciation Nanosecond.

OK. Celebration is over. Back to work.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.