A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Yesterday was Pi Day, a celebration of the number 3.14159 etc., etc., etc. Numbers don’t usually get a day, but mathematics is not what you’d call a labour-intensive profession and Math Nerds have a lot of time on their hands. Today is the Ides of March, an ancient Roman something-or-other festival that nobody would care about if Brutus and his buddies hadn’t taken the opportunity to turn their pal Julius Caesar into a pin cushion. And Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, a day when everybody tries to drink themselves green because a pack of 19th century New York Irishmen got homesick. Folks, I think we’re getting a little over- scheduled.
Back in the day, primitive humans observed a couple of annual events to break up the monotony of trying to stave off starvation. They celebrated Spring because they’d lived through the winter. “OMG! We made it!” And they celebrated the autumn harvest because there was food on the table. “Yay! Let’s eat!” Aside from that, there wasn’t all that much for primeval humans to get excited about.
Enter organized religion. When you have nameable gods, it makes sense to pause from time to time and thank them for life, liberty and the pursuit of getting enough to eat. “Oh, Lord! You’ve been awful good to me this year. Thanks for letting me kill that mastodon. Here, I made you a necklace out of his bones. Any chance of getting another one before winter sets in? Amen.”
From there, it was an easy step to commemorating tribal events — things like the death of a great leader, a particularly successful hunt or a military victory. “Hey, Benny! Remember last winter when we kicked the crap out of the Neanderthals? We should set aside a special day to have a howl and a dance and tell our kids that story.”
The calendar wasn’t all that crowded, and these were important occasions. They were seasonal or religious events or days of national pride, and for hundreds of years, our society used these times to celebrate our common beliefs and aspirations. We even added a few new ones, like Thanksgiving and Labour Day, and allowed a couple of “not-so-serious” days to come along for the ride – notably, Hallowe’en and Valentine’s Day.
Welcome to the 20th century. We loaded up the year with enough “special days” to give every date on the calendar five or six notations. It all started with Mother’s Day in 1908 because, of course, everybody loves their mother. She deserves a special day. But, what about dad? We couldn’t leave that poor bugger out in the cold. He needed a day. And from there it was just open season – Grandparents’ Day, Groundhog Day, Farmers’ Day, Secretaries’ Day, Road Construction Day, Robbie Burns Day, Bloomsday (June 16th) Star Wars Day (May the 4th) and on and on and on. Suddenly, every day was special.
So, today, if you don’t want to celebrate the 2,062nd anniversary of the death of Julius Caesar, you have some choices — and BTW, these are all official days. First of all, it’s International Day against Police Brutality (kinda self-explanatory.) Next, it’s World Consumer Rights Day (Good luck with that one!) But, it’s also World Day of Muslim Culture (which, depending on where you live, could tie in with item #1) World Speech Day and Eva Longoria’s birthday (she’s 44.)
Personally, though, I’m going with World Contact Day. That’s right: This is the day that the International Flying Saucer Bureau wants you to go outside and try your best to contact extra-terrestrials — telepathically. Don’t knock it! It beats the hell out of World Malaria Day.