April 20 is National Lima Bean Respect Day, and I have some questions. How does one celebrate this day? Why should we stand in solidarity with legumes? We all know lima beans aren’t sentient, right? And has anyone even actively disrespected them?
National days have become a fad in recent years. Blame social media, or millennials or consumerism, but whatever the cause, we have reached a point of finding out about holidays via Instagram hashtags instead of calendars or family get-togethers. This influx of designated days has become problematic for several reasons; essentially that these days have stopped serving their primary function of raising awareness. World Autism Awareness Day, Earth Day et al. call attention to an important cause. Not that you can’t raise awareness on National Tape Measure Day, but what’s the point?
April 6 alone is assigned National Caramel Popcorn Day, Student-Athlete Day, Tartan Day, Teflon Day, and Alcohol Screening Day, among others — at least if your point of reference is National Day Calendar. If you consult the website Days of the Year, you should be celebrating Tartan Day and Caramel Popcorn Day, but in place of the others, it lists New Beer’s Eve, Army Day, Tell A Lie Day and “Plan Your Epitaph Day.” Celebrated days are meant to be meaningful and provide some greater societal function. Posting selfies with pretzels (April 26) fails to meet that standard. Is it even a holiday if there’s dispute as to when it is, or whether it even exists?
These fake, futile and frivolous national holidays also serve to promote consumerism. Cheeseburger Day? Better participate by stopping by McDonald’s — which you just had to do two months prior, in celebration of Drive-Thru Day. Many national days honor a particular food or object, and if there’s one thing that companies know, it is that holidays are prime time for advertising campaigns. These national days are just another example of the prominent role commercialism has in our lives. We buy whatever is being celebrated, then often post about it online, using these fake holidays as a means to acquire our generation’s favorite form of psychological validation: social media likes. These holidays are not rooted in tradition or cultural significance, they simply serve to increase company’s net worths and — courtesy of that Instagram double tap — our own serotonin levels. National Maple Syrup Day, and all its contemporaries, are about money and narcissism.
Another exasperating thing about the abundance of meaningless holidays is that they detract attention from days that actually serve a purpose. It seems counterproductive for the International Day of Forests and World Down Syndrome Day to compete for attention with French Bread Day and International Fragrance Day. We have awareness days because there are causes that need support — and bread, French or otherwise, is not one of them. Most of these superfluous national days are meant to be lighthearted. Favorite foods are sexier than disabilities, but which is more important? Maybe the appeal of these national days is that they are easy to participate in, whereas days raising awareness about serious issues actually require you to engage with a difficult, nuance topic, but if you can post a picture of your dinner on social media, you can share a link to an article about deforestation or Down syndrome. Of course, there are more effective ways to raise awareness, but making a Facebook post is still marginally better than ignoring the issue entirely.
National days should serve a purpose. What started as a few pointless, fun days has snowballed out of control. At this point, we have so many national days that they just add to the all-consuming, overwhelming white noise of the Internet. Are they really improving our lives, or are they just taking up space? They distract from the importance of national days that could actually spark social change. So, the next time you find your newsfeed overrun by Endangered Species Day and Pizza Party Day posts, take a moment to contribute to the more important conversation. We simply must the draw the line, before we end up spending the rest of our lives celebrating every noun on the planet.