Who gets to decide the occasions we should celebrate? We all know Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, and even Columbus Day, and we know what such holidays entail (alcohol, food (sandwich day?), no work/school/mail). But why can’t we select, customize, and personalize days of the year based on we truly feel warrant an annual commemoration?
Well believe it or not, we can. It may not hold any sway on a legal or official level, but that doesn’t impair the festivities any; in fact, it makes them feel truly democratic, to think the government didn’t dogmatically spit out some of the best unofficial holidays and observances we’ve got going (which are respectfully observed on a national and sometimes international level). Here are ten of them:
10. 420 Day
April 20th is a day where stoners rejoice and share toothy smirks, as finally a pot-friendly equivalent of St. Paddy’s Day has been invented. Sorta; you won’t find any greeting cards to mark the occasion, and there won’t be police cruisers sectioning off streets for pot parades (although they will be ready to cuff you at the slightest hint that you might be in possession). Cops are hardly ready to endorse the substance while it still remains illegal…meanwhile drunk drivers are responsible for a majority of vehicle-related deaths, and happy hour has never been happier.
The unofficial holiday has its origin story in San Rafael (California) High School in 1971, where a group of pot-smokers set out on a mythical quest to track down some abandoned pot crop (like Cheech and Chong meet The Goonies), meeting at 4:20 every day and getting really high in the process. And that is the stuff legends are made of. Or giggled about. Followed by a handful of Cheetos and a nap.
9. Star Wars Day
This holiday, occurring on May 4th, is just another excuse for geeks to be be geeks…and for those geeks to elicit great joy out of saying “may the Fourth be with you” all day to everyone they encounter. It is a fan-concocted, pun-centric occasion. There is also a more official Star Wars Day on May 25th, which was when the original New Hope was released back in 1977. This observance was declared by the Los Angeles City Council (obvious Star Wars nerds) on May 25, 2007.
8. Pi Day
Pocket protectors and graphing calculators are all a-fluster on the math-tastic holiday which celebrates the number pi, whose first three digits are 3.14 (or March 14th). This holiday is celebrated with pie (wink wink, nudge nudge) and probably more geometry than usual. The first celebrator of this “holiday” was Harry Shaw, who was a physicist for the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988. He commemorated the spirit of the mathematical constant by marching in a circular space and eating fruit pie. Anyone standing at the circumference around his party was in equal radius to a good time.
7. International Beer Day
As if we needed another excuse to drink, this holiday gets straight to the point. You got to at least appreciate the candor. Originating in Santa Cruz, California in 2007, this “holiday” apparently has spread like wildfire, and is celebrated in over a hundred cities, 23 countries, and 6 continents. The main causes are to drink great beer with great friends, appreciate those responsible for providing the beverage, and to just be unanimously drunk on a global level. It is observed on August 5th, and then swiftly forgotten about the next morning.
6. World Goth Day
On this day, May 22nd, goths get to–if they don’t already on a daily basis–collectively put on their fishnets and eyeliner (and that’s the guys!) and put on a mixtape including the (glorious) likes of The Cure, Siouxie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, etc. The day has its origins not in Transylvania, but in the UK during a BBC music weekend, May 22 just so happens to be when the Goth genre was emphasized. From then on, goths around the world decided there should be a day for unabashed Goth pride. And the world is all the more disaffected for it.
5. Record Store Day
This day is actually a sort of great hope for the fading record store industry, which has taken all sorts of hits with the popularity of digital music. Chains have shut their doors after decades of nostalgia-drenched business, and mom and pop stores have become virtually extinct, if not severely weakened. But this day (typically the third Saturday in April) is one that speaks to a greater good; that we shouldn’t let sound quality suffer for the sake of convenience. It’s easy to see why so many musicians would support this cause, releasing special edition vinyl records that day, and making in-store appearances. More info can be found here.
4. Monkey Day
This is a day devoted to bananas, ape culture, and general monkeying around. Founded by a cartoonist and student at Michigan State University, Casey Sorrow unpeeled Pandora’s Banana when he jotted “Monkey Day” on a friend’s calendar. It was subsequently promoted in Sorrow’s controversial school newspaper cartoon “Fetus-X”, and by other cartoonists, and now its a sort of phenomenon. Hallmark recognizes it (you know that means something) and it is celebrated by monkey-centric costume parties, the consumption of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, and by just becoming concerned with what’s going on in the world of monkeys. Make sure you have all the bugs picked out of your fur (and subsequently eaten) by December 14th.
3. International Free Hugs Day
Started by one down-in-the-dumps Australian who realized the healing powers of a simple hug, he took to a shopping mall equipped with a “Free Hugs” sign, and soon overcame leery passersby as he got exactly what he sought out for. In 2006, the Australian band Sick Puppies took video of his humanity-soaked endeavors, and helped spread the movement by way of a heavily-viewed (72 million hits) music video on YouTube. The observance takes place on the first Saturday in July, but hugs are always free.
2. Autistic Pride Day
Started by organizations such as the Autism Assembly and Aspies for Freedom, June 18th celebrates what is referred to as “neurodiversity,” being people of varying levels of of the neurological disorder. Championed by higher-functioning autistic people, the idea was to celebrate this mental uniqueness, rather than dismiss it as an incurable illness. After all, disorders don’t prevent great deeds from being accomplished, or great people from being great.
1. Black Day
No, this has no racial connotation; the day is actually a response to Valentine’s Day and “White Day” (which, in various Asian countries, is like the Sadie Hawkins version of Valentine’s Day, where the girls make all the sweeping romantic gestures, as the guys are swept off their feet). “Black Day” is the celebration of being single, and a reminder that, in this time of self-involved and cloying displays of affection, it is in fact okay to stand on your own two feet. This day, celebrated on April 14th, is commemorated in South Korea with a white noodle-and-black-bean-sauce dish called jajangmyeon. Nothing sad about a celebration centered around eating alone…