I received an email a few weeks ago alerting me that it was not only National Pretzel Day, but also National Prime Rib Day. Nothing says 'springtime' like stuffing our faces with endless prime rib, am I right? Tomorrow it's National Bike to Work Day, which is a call to action for everyone to...you guessed it - bike to work. But we're still in a global pandemic, and not everyone is commuting to work again. These national (and international) days are difficult to keep track of, and we can't help but wonder...has all of this gotten a bit out of hand? What's the point in creating a National Pretzel Day - or Earth Day for that matter - and how are we supposed to celebrate?
Believe it or not, it all started when Ronald Reagan had too much cheese. Well, not necessarily too much to eat, just too much to deal with. The government has long supported the dairy industry through some serious subsidies. When Americans started cutting down on their milk consumption, excess milk was turned into cheese for storage and longevity, and the U.S. government bought up the surplus to keep prices steady. That left us with more cheese than even Papa John himself would know what to do with. In 1984, the U.S. did a couple of things to combat this cheese surplus. First, the USDA created the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, which took the form of 'government cheese,' and distributed surplus cheese to poor seniors en masse. Second, in order to incentivize people to consume more dairy, Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday in July 'National Ice Cream Day'' (which is now the entire month of July).
While it's unlikely that we all start getting time off for National Ice Cream Day, it's not immediately clear how these national days technically differ from Memorial Day and other bank holidays. Based on what we've found, these days stem from a few main sources:
There are federally-recognized holidays, which need to be passed by Congress (e.g.Christmas and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).
There are separate U.S.-recognized commemorative days (or weeks) like Mother's Day.
Then, there are UN-recognized holidays like World Press Freedom Day or International Day of Biological Diversity.
Then, there's the National Day Calendar, which is not affiliated with any government agency and yet it receives over 20,000 applications each year to commemorate specific days.
According to the UN, today happens to be World Bee Day, and according to the National Day Calendar it's National Be A Millionaire Day (seriously? seriously.) and National Rescue Dog Day, not to be confused with International Dog Day on August 26th or National Pet Day on April 11th.
This is mostly all fun and games, but many of these days have been pushed by corporations to gain more sales. A food-delivery service in California started National Avocado Day, which is now being capitalized by restaurants like Chipotle, and Hallmark created National Friendship Day because we all apparently need another reason to show our real friends some love with physical cards. The problem is that a desire for those corporate gains often distracts from the core message that many 'days,' especially those created and recognized by the UN, are trying to convey. How many times have you received a promo email offering 15% off your purchase of that 'environmentally-friendly' bath soap or that organic cotton t-shirt to 'celebrate' Earth Day? Is purchasing things on sale the best way to celebrate Earth Day? I'm calling bullsh*t.
You may have noticed that Finch has put out a few blog posts and social media posts aligned with the timing of some international days, including International Workers' Day and World Fair Trade Day recently. Because one of Finch's main objectives is to help us all get a bit wiser on this stuff, we try to cut through the fluff and bring the core rationale back into focus. #education, right? Sometimes there's a clear call to action, sometimes there's a good resource to point to, and sometimes it's just helpful information. If we ever celebrate National Pretzel Day, it likely means our team was in the mood for a salty snack OR we've uncovered some juicy intel on the pretzel industry that you must be apprised of. Either way, we promise we won't try to sell you pretzels.
HERE'S A FEW OF THE HOLIDAYS FINCH RECOGNIZES AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO US:
Global Recycling Day (March 18)
Challenge yourself to check your recycling labels and look up your local recycling laws to make sure you're sorting everything correctly.
Earth Day (April 22nd)
Get outside! But also: Auto-archive emails from every single brand you've ever shopped at with (mostly) empty promises about what they're doing for Earth Day. Then, the following October, go back in your archives and check in with those companies to see what they've done six months after the holiday...and the other 364 days of the year.
World Bee Day (May 20)
Look up a fact about the importance of bees and tell at least five of your friends (spoiler alert: we'll be sharing some tomorrow ð). Check your honey label and make sure it was responsibly sourced, meaning it's raw, unfiltered, organic or biodynamic, or look for that Fair Trade label we posted about on World Fair Trade Day! These characteristics are no guarantee of ethical beekeeping, but the related farming practices have a positive correlation with being more bee-friendly.
World Oceans Day (June 8)
If you're lucky enough to be near the ocean on this day, dive in head first, and maybe pick up a few pieces of beach trash on your way out. If not, take a look at your fish intake, and cross-check it with the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch to see if you can make more responsible choices.
International Day of Clean Air (September 7)
Challenge yourself to take only public transportation, and try to eliminate an action that could contribute to fossil-fuel emissions (like running the water while you brush your teeth, or keeping the lights on when you're not home).
When it comes down to it, some of these 'days' bring awareness to important issues, but more often than not, they're taken advantage of by companies looking to sell stuff. If you choose to participate, go ahead, have some fun! But also ask yourself if you learned anything new. Maybe even consider donating that $20 to a local environmental action group instead of spending it on an 'Earth Day' t-shirt that will ultimately end up in a landfill.