Today, April 16, is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. I love holidays, but not all of them equally. This one, however, meets all of my personal criteria for a very good holiday:
* It commemorates a real and important event, something worth learning about: Lincoln's proclamation that freed the slaves of the District of Columbia on this date in 1862.
* It has activities and/or ceremonies for present-day celebrants -- in this case, a rally for DC voting rights at Freedom Plaza. (It ended at noon.)
* It's not disruptive of normal life -- that is, there's still trash pickup, school is still on, and everyone's open for business.
* It's a free parking day!
Some other holidays that meet these criteria are: Halloween, Valentine's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Groundhog Day, Pi Day (that's 3-14 at 1:59pm and 26 seconds), Bloomsday (June 16) and Talk Like a Pirate Day (aarrrgh, that one be September 19, matey). Okay, I know what you're thinking: By these standards any day of the year could be a holiday. Yes, it could ... and what's wrong with that? It's not a bad idea to have something special to note about each day of your life. There are national days of other countries, 192 of them. There are days that mark historic events. There are days set aside to appreciate things in nature (Arbor Day, the last Friday in April), to honor a national symbol (Flag Day, June 14), to campaign to protect the planet (Earth Day, April 22), as well as dozens and dozens of lesser known, should-be-known days set aside to celebrate or appreciate something in our lives.
How do you find out about these days? An easy and fun way is to call Verizon's weather line (202-936-1212) first thing each morning. If the weatherman on the line is Neal Pizzano, you will be treated first to his reading of the day's weather report in his indefatigably cheery voice, followed by his proclamation of the day's "holidays." It's National Mushroom Day! -- he will announce -- and it's No-Socks Day! And Caps Lock Day! Yes, these are all real days that have been declared by some group or other, with observances that the organizers want you to know about. You can Google them if you don't believe me. Neal's usually on at 7am, but if he's not, you can go to the source of many, if not most, of the goofy, oddball holidays he comes up with: http://www.brownielocks.com .
Of course, there's a big difference between marking a day on which people became free and, say, the day you take your teddy bear to lunch (Teddy Bears' Picnic Day, July 10). I just thought I'd say that, before I get angry notes from people who think I'm lumping the solemn holidays in with the silly. Yes, today's Emancipation Day rally is far more noteworthy than tomorrow's Ford Mustang Day. But that shouldn't stop owners of Ford Mustangs from tooling around in their cars and having a glorious time on the 17th.
Since I couldn't make it to this morning's DC voting rights event, my participation in today's Emancipation Day celebration will be limited to publicizing the day through my column. Hooray for DC voting rights! Most of the time I don't do a single thing to mark the day, except smile when I hear what I should be commemorating on this day. If you like the idea of finding something that makes each day worth honoring, you might want to start with your own birthday. For something substantive and significant to celebrate, try "This Day in History" by the History Channel: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history . I learned that my birthday, June 19, like today, marks an important advance in the fight to end slavery. It's called the Juneteenth, and on that day in 1864 Lincoln signed a proclamation that freed slaves in all parts of the South then under Union control. It's a legal holiday in 35 states.
That's it for this Friday's column. Prithee visit again on Friday next, April 23 -- Shakespeare's birthday!
Posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv, on April 16, 2010.