Happy 'Make Up Your Own Holiday' day!

If you've ever wanted to declare a holiday, now is your chance. Tomorrow, March 26, is "Make Up Your Own Holiday" day, according to the reference book Chase's Calendar of Events. Since 1957, this publication has been collecting and publishing a list of holidays, festivals, fairs, and anniversaries. There are thousands of them.

Of course, some holidays are a little more official than others. But all it takes to make a holiday is to name the day, decide what to do, and get other people to do it along with you. Even our best-known holidays started out this way.

Thanksgiving is now a national holiday, proclaimed by the president of the United States. But celebrating days of thanks during harvest season is an old tradition in many countries. Pilgrims brought the tradition to America, although different colonies celebrated on different days. The first official Thanksgiving Day in the US was in 1798, when President George Washington proclaimed the holiday. He didn't make it an annual event, however, and the colonies continued holding their separate harvest feasts.

How one person created a popular holiday

One person's persistence can help create a holiday. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Ladies' Magazine in Boston, began writing editorials urging that a uniform day of thanks be observed throughout the US. She also wrote letters to successive presidents and governors. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday in November would be national Thanksgiving Day. The day has been observed annually since then. In 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution placing the holiday permanently on the fourth Thursday in November.

Another well-known holiday has never had official recognition. April Fools' Day (April 1) is not a legal holiday. But for hundreds of years it has been a special day to play practical jokes.

April Fools may have started in France in 1564. April 1 used to be New Year's Day in France, but in 1564 the beginning of the new year was changed to Jan. 1. People who continued to celebrate the April 1 New Year were called "April fools" and people began to play jokes on them. They would send them to buy "sweet vinegar" (there's no such thing) or find a stick with only one end. Some scholars point out that April Fools' Day is similar to a portion of the Hindu festival of Holi. This five-day holiday is celebrated with bonfires and dancing. Unsuspecting people are sent on fool's errands on the final day, March 31. Sweden, Portugal, Scotland, and England also have similar customs.

But while April Fools' Day has roots going back to ancient times, new holidays can also just spring up. Kwanzaa is one such "young" holiday. It was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. He wanted to create a holiday to bring African-Americans together to celebrate their culture. He didn't start with Congress. He decided how the holiday would be celebrated and invited people to join in. From a small start, this holiday has grown to become well-known and practiced.

To be official, a holiday must be declared official by a government. The government can be national, state, county, or city. If you wanted to make March 30 "National Yu-Gi-Oh Day," for example, you'd need to follow the same process used to create a new national law - with a few differences.

To become a national law, a proposed new law (a bill) is usually examined by a smaller committee first. If approved by the committee, it is discussed and voted upon by the full House of Representatives or Senate. Bills must be approved by both houses of Congress before they are sent to the president for his signature. But to pass a resolution recognizing a special day, a committee can suspend the rules and send the bill right to the full House or Senate. The resolution can be passed by one or both houses, and it doesn't have to be signed by the president. However, it is not considered to have the force of law.

President declares lots of special days

The president also can declare a special day. In 2000, President Clinton proclaimed 127 special days, including Mother's Day and Thanksgiving Day. Governors declare state holidays and mayors do the same for their cities. A company that makes candy bars can simply announce that it's National Candy Bar Week and advertise it. (Plenty of people would be happy to celebrate that one!) Cities and states often honor distinguished citizens by proclaiming a day in their honor, such as Hawaii's Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianole Day (March 26). Causes can be promoted by naming a special month, such as Women's History Month (March).

But if you want your holiday to have a little more authority, there's always March 26. This "Make Up Your Own Holiday" day was proclaimed by Thomas and Ruth Roy, who make a hobby of thinking up fun days to celebrate, such as Hug an Australian Day (April 26) and No Homework Day (May 6). They have been featured in magazines and newspapers and on TV shows telling people about their holidays. One of their special days, "Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day," is actually celebrated with parties in towns in Texas and Pennsylvania. You can find all their holidays described on their website: www.wellcat.com.

If you'd like to check out some of the other holidays you might not know about, your local library should have a copy of Chase's Calendar of Events. It's published every year and includes thousands of good reasons to celebrate.

Sites to help you celebrate

www.wellcat.com/holiday.html

Wellcat Holidays are created by Thomas and Ruth Roy, who love to find fun new excuses to have a celebration.

www.holidays.net

Holidays on the Net lists upcoming holidays and gives the history and significance of some of the most widely celebrated days.

www.infoplease.com/ipa/a0875655.html

Infoplease.com's webpage lists secular, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and other holidays.

April 1 is not just for foolin'

Every day has many holidays, if you know where to look. Many are sponsored by special groups, including corporations, farmers, teachers, environmentalists, and others. Here are some of the events and celebrations listed in 'Chase's Calendar of Events 2003' (McGraw-Hill) for the day, week, and month of April 1.

Month-long events

Community Spirit Days - Collect items to distribute to local charities.

Fresh Florida Tomato Month - To publicize the Florida tomato.

Holy Humor Month - To recognize the healing power of joy.

Keep America Beautiful Month - Clean up your neighborhood.

Mathematics Education Month - Focus on the importance of math education.

National Kite Month - Go fly a kite!

National Pecan Month - Celebrate the great taste and versatility of pecans.

National Poetry Month - Honor the contributions of poets and poetry.

National Woodworking Month - Emphasize the beauty and satisfaction of working with wood.

Straw Hat Month - Local businesses are encouraged to promote hat-related activities.

Tackle Your Clutter Month - Clean up all those storage places, donate items to charity, and start collecting your clutter for another year.

World Habitat Awareness Month - Learn how to protect the habitat of all Earth's creatures.

Week-long Events

Golden Rule Week (April 1-7) - Remember to treat others as you would want them to treat you.

Laugh at Work Week (April 1-7) - Reduce stress and increase productivity through laughter.

Special Days

April Fools' Day - A day of practical jokes. (March 32 is 'April Fools' Eve.' Just kidding.)

Saint Lasarus's Day - Ancient Slavic holiday of young girls in Bulgaria.

Islamic Republic Day - Anniversary of the approval of the new Constitution in Iran in 1979.

Sorry Charlie Day - Honor Charlie the Tuna, who is always rejected for the tuna fish can but keeps on trying.

US Air Force Academy Anniversary - Established in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa - Took place in 1945, the last year of World War II.

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