In this heterogeneous and poly-cultural expat environment, I have celebrated many different holidays with many different friends. Celebrations like that usually involve vast quantities of festive food and beverage, and correspondingly enlarged company, often consisting of guests who are not members of one’s immediate family or social circle. Additional elements include special outfits, music, dance, recitations and other actions, all of which are elements of various festive rituals.
With friends coming from backgrounds as diverse as Burma, India, Iran, Russia, Poland, England, Ireland, Israel, Scotland, Canada and the United States, I have been lucky to honour many a Water Festival, Orthodox Easter, Nowruz, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, Independence Day, Pancake Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, St Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and dozens of other, equally extra-ordinary occasions.
But not every day can be a holiday – not even in the cosmopolitan, international Doha. Or, can it? I have recently undertaken some serious research into this matter and here are the fruits of my labour (of leisure).
According to Nonsensopedia, a Polish website dedicated to absurd humour, every day is a holiday, in many cases a multiple one, too. For example, the 6th of January is known to most Christians as the Epiphany, but how many people realize that only two days later, on the 8th of that month, we can celebrate Desk-Tidying Day? If your desk is a mess and you have missed the special annual day for putting it in order, you might as well leave it till next year. Remember to make a special occasion of it, bring doughnuts, salmon canapés or rice crackers to work to share with colleagues…The 8-hour-long tediousness of office slog will soon disappear as if by magic.
I hope I won’t upset anyone too much by mentioning that the Day of Mutual Adoration is long gone this year (it was on the 13th of January). However, it seems that celebrating it just once a year may not be enough for many of us – so, why not have it again and again, for example, on the second Monday of every month?
Next, in the very short month of February, come days such as Ditch-Digging Day on the 3rd, the International Cat Day on the 17th and, finally, wait for it, the Day of Sleeping in Public Places on the 26th (personally, I would prefer to have this particular celebration moved to a warmer month…). However, rather confusingly, other Polish sources (Gazeta Lubuska) claim that on the same day, the 26th, is the Blondes-Greeting Day. Those of you who did not manage to greet a blonde on the 26th of February this year, please, put your special salutations on hold until next February.
In comparison, March appears a bit dull – it includes occasions such as the International Day of Civil Defence, International Women’s Day, International Water Day, International Theatre Day, etc., all well known and endorsed even by the United Nations, always eager to celebrate on a global scale. There is, however, one special day in March that I think many will be happy to honour: the 12th of March is the official Day of a Nap at Work. I imagine the length of the nap will vary from country to country and culture to culture, but hope all embrace it equally enthusiastically.
In April, we have an interesting fusion of three different occasions on the same day (the 5th): it is simultaneously the Day of Polite Driving, the Day Without Make-up and the Day of Trees. I can’t imagine how some people might want to celebrate this combo: slowly and respectfully driving themselves to the woods, un-made-up, to hug an oak or a beech?
In May, there is a day devoted to washing cars on the 19th (I missed it!) and the International (yes!) Day of Washing-up Liquid the day after. Don’t ask…
On the 1st of June we have both the International Milk Day as well as Bread Roll Day. In Eastern European countries, such as Poland, it also used to be celebrated as the International Day of the Child – in the good old communist times, that is. As children, we did not care about its international status, but quite enjoyed a day free of school. As adults we may want to dip our bread roll in milk. Or not.
Soon after that, a more sombre occasion takes place: the 11th of June is to commemorate Those Trampled to Death While Dancing. But on the heels of sadness, in rushes a more cheerful day dedicated to Nail Stylists (12 June) and immediately after, on the 13th of the month, the Day of Good Advice, when you can dispense it to your relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues all day long, just as you normally do, but maybe in a more festive (forceful?) way.
July is a month of summer holidays, so even ordinary days can be fêted as special. Thus, the 8th of July is the Day of Nonsensical Holidays, the 9th honours An Average Day and, finally, the 12th if the Day of a Feast, any feast, as long as it has not been celebrated on another occasion.
In August, we can rejoice in Mustard Day festivities on the 6th and, even more appropriately, have a ball on the Day of the Mosquito on the 20th, presumably by swatting a festively large number of the little buggers.
As we approach the autumnal gloom, we can cheer ourselves up on the 5th of September by celebrating the Day of Fairy Tale Creatures, on the 8th – the Day of Good News and, at the same time, the Day of a Dreamer. Then, we have the Day of Beauty (the 9th), and then the Day Without a Car (the 22nd) when we walk to work or stay at home instead. Lastly, the Day of a Hypochondriac comes at the very end of the month, on the 30th. Personally, I celebrate it much more often than just once a year by drinking a larger-than-usual amount of curative drinks.
In October, again every day marks something very important to celebrate, but the most remarkable feasts seem to be the World Day of a Postal Stamp (9 October), Day of Coming Out of The Closet (11 Oct), The World Day of Statistics, Day Without Socks On, and Day of the Bike, on the 20th, 21st and 24th, respectively. All of them quite irresistible, each in its own way!
The November Days of Cheap Wine (the 4th) and the Hedgehog (the 10th) are followed by the rather intriguing Day of Toilets on the 19th – perhaps celebrated by more frequent than usual visits to the bog? Even more mysterious, the International Curly Day is on the 22nd of November and this year I will be observing it at an international, and, hopefully, very curly party.
Finally, December, dark, cold and tired, attempts to lift our spirits by celebrating good things in life: the Day of an Angel on the 6th (also known as St Nicholas’s Day), the Day of Virgins (the 9th), and the Day Without Swearing on the 17th of the month. What a combination. Incidentally, Christmas Eve is apparently also celebrated as the Day of Paradise – summa summarum of the above. After that, well, we start again by observing the Hangover Day on the 1st of January…
After this blast of a holiday review and on a more serious note, I am left wondering about deeper – social, cultural, psychological – roots of our universal desire for festivities and related rituals. Anthropologists (Rappaport, Kottak) refer to rituals as stylised, repetitive, sacred actions designed to take their participants out of their mundane existence for a brief moment of celebration of transcendence. But, more importantly, rituals have another dimension: they are social acts performed in public and involving others. Holidays, feasts and festivals, extraordinary days and exceptional occasions, revolve around major or minor rituals, inherited or newly created, which bring us closer together as a community and allow us jointly to reconstruct a sacred space and return to the “origin of reality”, as Mircea Eliade put it in The Sacred and the Profane.
Eliade wrote mainly of ancient or traditional ‘holy-days’, but his emphasis on the difference between a person’s behaviour during the festival and before or after it applies equally to our de-sacralised, post-modernist, absurd celebrations of the Day of Spicy Food or the Day of a Librarian. Something or someone is given special status – for one day a year – and, in response, we make an effort to ritualise and elevate an action that would normally be bland, flat and ordinary, thus creating meaning that our busy lives may otherwise lack. Time slows down. Life becomes richer. People seem closer. Death appears farther. In the words of an unknown poet,
“…gather ’round and celebrate the life that has been given,
A gift of love – of hope eternal.
Our tiny bit of heaven”.
So, maybe, like Julie Powell who cooked her way through Julia Child’s 524 French recipes, I should attempt to celebrate my way through the year-long list of unholy holidays provided by Nonsensopedia, and, together with my family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, retrace steps to the beginnings of reality? Because, in the words of another poet, Louis MacNeice, “the morning after is the first day” and every day is a Day Worthy of Celebration. Na zdrowie!