Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Yesterday was my final day of shopping, and it featured the entirety of my wrapping for the year. As such, despite a massive slate of December observances, we weren’t able to get up to very much. I’m willing to consider bumping a few of these auspicious celebrations until later in the week – as we have done in the past – as I don’t expect we’ll see another day quite this manic before the year is up. Here’s what we managed to scrape together for our Monday:

Winter Solstice

There are numerous ways around the world for folks to celebrate the shortest day in the northern hemisphere. In Iran they celebrate Yalda Night, which features a massive feast with family (or with one’s cohort this year, assuming they’re keeping things tight like the rest of us), plus reading of poetry. I think we came closest to this one: we had a feast (of pulled chicken tacos), had some drinks (gin & tonic for me), and I even read a bit of poetry just for completeness sake. I opted for the work of renowned Persian poet Hafiz, as his work is the most traditionally associated with this night. A good friend of mine turned me onto the music of Hafiz’s words last year (back when we could visit with friends). Here’s the one I went with:

Let Thought Become Your Beautiful Lover

Let thought become the beautiful woman.

Cultivate your mind and heart to that depth

That it can give you everything

A warm body can.

Why just keep making love with God’s child – – Form

When the Friend Himself is standing

Before us

So open-armed?

My dear,

Let prayer become your beautiful Lover

And become free,

Become free of this whole world

Like Hafiz.

I like how he ties it in at the end. The moral is: be like me. And the bulk of the piece explains why that is a decidedly groovy thing to be. I read a few more of his poems, and thought for a while how this long dark night will give way to brighter evenings and warmer mornings over the next few months. 2020 will end, not with a miraculous dismissal of all of its ruin, but with a step forward toward our society’s recovery.

The winter solstice was a sacred time in the pre-Christian pagan traditions, and it’s most likely because of those traditions that Jesus’ birth is celebrated when it is. With the solstice technically landing at our planet’s greatest tilt, this day becomes a majestic intertwining of faith and science – equally poignant and special to both.

Crossword Puzzle Day

Yes, the crossword puzzle has its origins in the 19th century. But the first puzzle to most accurately resemble the puzzles we have today appeared in the New York World issue that was published 107 years ago yesterday.

I don’t mind the crossword puzzle, and I will confess to having learned to do them by leaning heavily on the crossword dictionary my mom owned (and wore completely out). Nowadays I do the electronic kind in my Puzzle Page game, like the one pictured above. Crosswords are not only a good test of one’s vocabulary and knowledge of culture and history, but also it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate some of the incredibly clever clue-creation that the puzzle-makers put together. It’s an art form by itself.

I couldn’t do much other than play the one crossword game yesterday; time was tight. But I wasn’t going to let this day slip by.

Don’t Make Your Bed Day

How to celebrate this one? Easy – don’t make your bed. I knew Abbey would come through for us on this one, as she never makes her bed when she stays with us. I have no doubt she is meticulous about keeping up with it when she’s at home, along with the rest of her household chores, but when she’s here, all bets are off. I’m lying of course – I know she hasn’t made her bed since junior high. Come on.

This celebration was created by Shannon Barba, a fifth-grader from Tijeras, New Mexico. In 2014, Shannon pushed a petition up to Congress to get this day enacted officially. She argued that kids have been making their beds every day for the past year, and they deserve a day off. I don’t believe that’s true, as I’m sure there are plenty of parents as lackadaisical and easy-going as Jodie and I out there, but the thought is nice. There is even some extra logic behind this thinking. It’s the shortest day of the year, therefore the day that people would theoretically spend the least amount of time out of bed. So it makes sense to not make the beds, right?

Right, Shannon. I’m totally with you. And in solidarity, we did not make our bed yesterday. Not even once.

Humbug Day

This day exists simply for folks to grumble and grouch about the impending holiday season. I’m actually feeling quite positive about this holiday season, apart from the cruel reality that Colton and his girlfriend have not been able to jet across the country to visit. But that’s no way to approach a celebration. I can absolutely bitch and moan with the best of them. So, keeping in mind my typically sunny disposition, here is what pisses me off about the holidays.

The music. Fuck that music. Almost every single Christmas song is obnoxious and sub-par. I love music – it is the manna that propels each of my breaths. But I don’t agree with listening to a certain album or a certain song only at a certain time of year. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” works just fine in the dead of winter. But why doesn’t “Jingle Bell Rock” belong in July? Because it’s an inarguably shitty song, and it doesn’t even belong in December.

The obligations. I like buying presents for the kids, and I love shopping for ideas for my mom (who is tough to buy for) and my wife (who is not, at least for me). I don’t like the fact that we feel obligated to buy gifts for nieces and nephews we seldom if ever see. Or for office secret santas, or other weird traditions. I get that it’s a huge boost to our economy, but I think we need to ditch the Christmas presents and start ramping up the birthday presents. Get your loved one a full-on stocking full of goodies for their birthday next year.

The war on Christmas. There is no war. There never was. The only people who bring it up are the people who are trying to convince you it exists. Christmas is doing just fine.

That’s all. I can’t dwell in negativity, but I can appreciate the catharsis of letting some of that grumpiness out. Humbug to all.

Ribbon Candy Day

Hey look, we have some ribbon candy! Not really – this is more of a sour jelly candy that is shaped like a ribbon, whereas proper ribbon candy would land under the hard candy designation we talked about yesterday. But this was what we had on hand, and it was delightful. I’m not going to get all deep with this one – we had a ribbon candy thing, and we ate the ribbon candy thing. A pleasant time was had by those of us who ate it.

National Short Girl Appreciation Day

I married a woman who tops out just a hair below 5 feet. She makes me feel like a giant, and I’m 5’10” if I stand on my toes. I remember my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Foster (whose reputation for smashing yardsticks in class was legendary), gave me a tip about short people. He said you’ve got to watch them – Napoleon, Hitler, and my friend Scott (who I think wound up taller than I). Mr. Foster was a cautious one.

Well, I watch Jodie every day. I watch her until my eyes get tired, and then I watch her even more in my dreams. She is the light of my world, and the primary reason I have made it through 2020 with a smile on my face and a song (not a fucking Christmas song) in my heart. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate her, and I’ve been spewing out 1,500-2,000 words every day about this and that. But not one of those words is enough to do her justice.

Every day is National Short Girl Appreciation Day around here. If I want someone even shorter I’ve got three dogs who fit the description and I appreciate the hell out of them as well. But we’re sticking with humans for this party. I’ve got my favourite one here, and I’m lucky as hell for it.

Today we might still tackle flashlights, shorts, hamburgers and bright sides. Here’s what else we might deal with:

  • National Date Nut Bread Day. No. We don’t need more sweet breadstuffs in our house, dammit.
  • National Short Person Day. Can I just copy-paste from today? Is that cheating? That’s probably cheating.
  • National Cookie Exchange Day. A classic holiday party that we won’t be indulging in this year. Neither should anyone else; there’s a pandemic, remember?
  • Be A Lover Of Silence Day. I’m a huge fan of silence. It’s my second-favourite after ‘noise’.

Monday, December 21, 2020

As I’ve established for the last 14 Sundays, I am not a fan of overloading our schedules when there are numerous football games to hold my attention. I had already resigned myself to missing most of football this year for this project, but that was before the world shut down and blocked us from diving into these celebrations as deeply as we’d have liked to. This was a bit of an issue, as many Sundays tend to be jam-packed with potential parties. Thankfully, yesterday was an exception that fit our mood. We coasted through the day and did what we could. I’ve mentioned several times this month that we are winding the project toward its conclusion, not by ramping up the celebration count but instead by taking it easy. We hit our goal. We’ve earned these breaths.

Dot Your I’s Day

This is a celebration of one’s ability to focus on their work and catch all the little details with care and concern. I suppose people are (usually) planning big, elaborate Christmas dinners, arranging seating charts to keep relatives who hate each other apart, and making sure that no niece and nephew has been forgotten, and won’t be waking up on Christmas morning wondering why you suddenly think so little of them. In a typical year, this is when the Christmas crunch is resounding off the hills and prompting so many folks into a frenzy.

The gift-buying, while likely not at the levels you’ll normally see, is still a thing. Jodie has a big family, and purchases gifts for all the nieces and nephews. I have zero siblings, and zero people in my clan to buy for, except for my mother. I spent yesterday being meticulous only in my writing and publishing work. That said, I’m still expecting someone will message me with a typo, thus indicating that I’d left an I un-dotted. We’ll see.

Jodie checked her list once more, and found that all she’s missing is a few more presents for me. Not really, but she’ll read this, and maybe the subliminal message that I need more treats and more booze will sink in and prompt some capitalist inspiration on her part. We’ll see.

The best part of this day shows up now that it’s over. Until December 20, 2021, we don’t have to pay attention to every last detail of what we do. Dot Your I’s Day only comes once a year!

Mudd Day

Celebrating his 187th birthday yesterday was Dr. Samuel Mudd, a man you may have never heard of, and a man who probably doesn’t deserve his own special day in this celebration-fest. But here we are, without much to cheer us forward on December 20, making mention of the guy, and learning a little something about him.

Sammy Mudd was a doctor who also owned a small tobacco plantation right before the Civil War. The war took a toll on his livelihood, which led him to consider selling the farm and focusing on his doctor work. The man who came to potentially buy the place? John Wilkes Booth. This meeting was the beginning of a long, weird chain of events that would bring Sammy to the brink of death.

The details of how well John and Sam knew each other are somewhat sketchy. They certainly met a few times, though some who knew him claim that there’s no way Sammy would have gone along with John’s original plan, which was to kidnap President Lincoln and ransom him for the release of some high-profile Confederate prisoners. But after John shot the president and broke his leg trying to flee Ford’s Theatre, it was to Mudd’s that he and co-conspirator David Herold went. Mudd set the leg with a splint and hooked him up with some crutches. He then waited about 24 hours before alerting the authorities.

That wasn’t smart. Whether or not he was in on the job, or simply happened to be the doctor John Booth knew would do his medical duty and fix his leg, that was something the courts tried to figure out. Sammy Mudd was sentenced to life in prison. Only one jurist’s vote spared him from the death penalty. A couple years into his sentence, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in the prison and killed the prison doctor. Mudd took over the role and likely saved a number of souls. Was it an act of redemption? Or was Mudd just the type of dude who took his medical oath seriously enough to save lives (or splint legs) when the need arose?

Samuel Mudd was pardoned in 1869, and he lived another 14 years before pneumonia took him down at age 45. He’s a fascinating character in one of America’s most incredible historical tales. I still don’t know why his birthday is an official day in our calendar, but there it was. A great little story.

Games Day

I had figured this would simply be a generic day to remind us that the holidays are here, people are sitting around looking for things to do, so why not play some board games? A truly dull premise for a celebration, but an acceptable way to pass the time.

But no, this day has the heft of history behind it. In August 1975, a gaming convention was cancelled, prompting Games Workshop, which I assume is a company that creates games in the UK, created their own little version of the convention on December 20 of that year. Every year, people gather at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham to game their hearts out. We’re talking more about games like Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40,000 and Magic: The Gathering. People aren’t gathering in a convention centre to play Sorry or Monopoly.

The trend has spread around the world, but of course this year I’m sure it was scrapped, along with pretty much everything else fun on the planet. That’s okay; we could keep the spirit alive, even though none of us play any of those games.

For starters, we had numerous football games to watch throughout the afternoon, which fit the vibe nicely. Then in the evening, I played a fun little chunk of Red Dead Redemption 2. Jodie is not a fan of board games, and she showed only the mildest of interest in learning how to play chess earlier this year, but I’m sure we’ll dive into a few of those before our break is over. Abbey and I will have fun. So will Jodie, even though she claims she never does when we play board games.

She always does. We know this.

A Monday free of work, with only a bit of near-last minute shopping to do, plus whatever the calendar throws our way. Turns out it’s throwing this:

  • National French Fried Shrimp Day. Abbey is not a fan of shrimp, so making it while she’s staying with us would be astoundingly rude. We aren’t known for our astounding rudeness.
  • National Maine Day. We will celebrate this with some classic lobster a little later on this week.
  • Crossword Puzzle Day. Crosswords are 107 years old. I’ll muck around with one today.
  • Winter Solstice. Our final season change for the year. We’ll find some way to honour it.
  • Yule. Satanists apparently celebrate this day instead of Christmas. Not sure we want to wander into that little conflict, but we’ll see.
  • National Short Girl Appreciation Day. Well this will be easy.
  • Humbug Day. A day to express some of our grumpiness about the holiday season. This will be just about as easy to celebrate as the last one.
  • Celebrate Short Fiction Day. A day for some short stories, short films, or a puppet show with tiny puppets.
  • Shorts Day. Why? Why in December? Who decided this?
  • Don’t Make Your Bed Day. Celebrations in which we don’t have to do something are like getting a freebie. Damn, this is shaping up to be our last huge day of celebrations in 2020.
  • National Flashlight Day. Use a flashlight? Okay.
  • International Dalek Remembrance Day. Whovians around the world unite and remember the fallen daleks.
  • National Coquito Day. It’s a rum beverage, which is awesome. But we’d need coconut milk and evaporated milk, and my lactose intolerance is just telling me to drink the damn rum on its own.
  • National Hamburger Day. Wow, these are really crammed in for a Monday, aren’t they?
  • National Look At The Bright Side Day. We will be celebrating a lot. On the bright side, this should give us an excuse to do next to nothing for the rest of the year.
  • National Kiwi Fruit Day. Oi vey.
  • Ribbon Candy Day. I guess we found a second use for Abbey’s ribbon candy.
  • Phileas Fogg Win A Wager Day. Should we travel around the world? Or just use Google Earth?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

While much of yesterday was occupied by a run for supplies and a period of recovery from the season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, we still managed to address the list of potential celebrations. Oatmeal muffins were eliminated from the menu, as we didn’t have any on hand and we aren’t big enough fans to track them down. We’ve got a weird little lockdown going on right now, with only 15% of a store’s capacity allowed through the door at a time. This means our favourite bakery will be lined up around the block. That runs counter to not only the Christmas spirit, but also the general celebratory spirit we’ve embraced all year long. Still, we had all this to keep us busy:

National Hard Candy Day

You hear about hard candy, but no one ever talks about ‘soft’ candy. Why do we only differentiate when the candy moves from chewy to crunchy? This is as deep as I feel like digging into this topic.

I’m a fan of hard candy. As a loyalist to my sweet tooth, I have always enjoyed a variety of enamel-testing sweetness. My grandmother used to have a candy dish of humbugs on her coffee table. It was particularly fun when they’d all glom together into one misshapen humbug. My favourite candy as a kid was scotch mints, ideally with the insides all crumbly and English mint-ish, rather than chewy. And those little cinnamon hearts are always a treat. Don’t even get me started on the majesty of peppermints.

Were we not already shoulder-deep in baked goods (see yesterday’s article), we might have taken some time and gorged on hard candies yesterday. But we have five people’s worth of cookies to eat, and only three people here for the season. We have our work laid out before us, and sprinkling hard candy on top of it all might have been too much. But candy canes check off both boxes of hard candy’s requirements, so this one filled in quite nicely.

This has truly been a year of utter indulgence. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down in its calorie-rich insanity, even as the year starts to waddle toward the closing curtain. We’ll make it. We can endure all this delicious work.

National Emo Day

“Emo” is a subculture of mostly youths, one that most adults who do not have school-aged children may not be aware of. It’s an evolution of the mopey disenfranchised punk, or those folks in the 80s who cranked up the Cure, wore a lot of black and moped a lot. This is not meant to confuse them with goths, who also wear a lot of black (and who may or may not also be into the Cure), but who do so with a different aesthetic and purpose.

Abbey went through an emo phase, and from that time she kept as a souvenir an appreciation for bands like My Chemical Romance, who found a way to tap into that teen angst and prompt it to greater percolation. I wasn’t aware that the emo crowd was in need of their own day, but apparently they are. As far back as 2009 there’s an entry for this day in the Urban Dictionary online, and depending on which entry you subscribe to, it’s either a day for celebrating the emo folks in your life, or for hunting them down to beat them up. Needless to say, we are in the former camp, as the latter is fairly off-brand for our kind ‘n loving vibe.

I took a few moments out of the day to listen to some Emo Phillips, a standup comedian who has nothing to do with the emo lifestyle, but who is surreal and bizarre enough to no doubt launch even the most morose, bang-flipping emo mopester into cautious, confused laughter. I also listened to a track or two of the mood music, but it didn’t stick for me.

It’s an odd day to show up in December, and I can find no reason why it lands on the 19th. Maybe it’s to counter-balance the festive, colourful cheer all over the place. Whatever the reason, happy (or hopelessly dejected) National Emo Day to all.

Look For An Evergreen Day

Likely an off-shoot of the days of yore when anyone who wanted to celebrate Christmas had to do so with an actual murdered tree in their homes, this is a day to look for a suitable evergreen. As mentioned last week, I have only once had an actual butchered tree in my house. It was messy, but made our basement room smell delightful.

Like most people, we have already set up our tree this year. I saw trees lit up the day after Halloween, most likely because we’re all eager to get 2020 behind us and hope for better days ahead. Also like most people, we use an artificial tree. It saves money, it’s easy to set up and take down, and we don’t get a bunch of needles embedded in our floor. So we had no need to look for an evergreen.

But why would I include this day if we weren’t going to indulge in the celebration? This is the kind of question I tend not to ask myself, because if ‘why’ was a significant factor in anything we were doing this year, our brains might explode. We simply did. And I found one, right outside our house. We have shown this tree before, though I’m pretty sure it has grown substantially over the year. It’s an evergreen tree that seemed to magically appear in our yard one year, just popping up out of the ground, despite our not having planted it. So I took a shot of the little dude in the snow. Last year he was completely buried. This year he gets a view of the world. For now, anyway.

Technically we could have celebrated this anywhere, even in our bathroom. It’s not Find an Evergreen Day; you could look anywhere you want to for an evergreen. Check your pantry. Pop into your freezer. Go nuts!

So close to the end of the year we can smell it, here’s what awaits us on the penultimate Sunday of 2020:

  • National Sangria Day. This one is tricky… we just picked up lots of booze yesterday, and we really aren’t feeling sangria. We’ll see.
  • Games Day. On a Sunday? Packed with football games? Sounds great!
  • Dot Your I’s Day. I wonder if Cross Your T’s day shows up tomorrow. Or maybe on Christmas. That might be more appropriate.
  • Cathode-Ray Tube Day. Hooray for antiquated tech!
  • Mudd Day. Not about the Star Trek guy, but about the guy who helped John Wilkes Booth hide out.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

It was our final day of balancing work and whatever this is, and honestly it went down pretty much like I’d expected. We had an impressive slate (for December) to celebrate, and we also kept our priorities straight: it’s been along, agonizing year, and we just want to rest. We don’t want to bog ourselves down with another 5,000-word article, or prepare some weird food we don’t want to eat. We simply want to be. The calendar, as happens so often, had other plans for us. Here’s what we managed to cram into the day:

National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day

The idea for this day is to wear the ugly sweater you either bought as an ironic holiday novelty, or (if you’ve been playing along with this project on a level greater than we have been) sporting the sweater you started planning out on Leon Day, June 25. I had plans for a Die Hard-themed garment, but by the time summer rolled around we had lost our oomph from the start of the project, mostly because everything we celebrated had to happen within the confines of our own property.

It has been a weird year. We did not craft Christmas sweaters as we’d hoped. Life simply got in the way, as it tends to. And we’d hoped that Abbey would have brought home her delightful “Get Lit For Hanukkah” sweater, but given that the extent of our family Christmas partying was going to be limited this year, she did not. So we were lacking.

Jodie wore her Christmas sweatshirt though. It’s not particularly ugly, unless you find Groot to be aesthetically displeasing to you, but it’s as close as we can get. I have nothing holiday-related except for a  couple pairs of boxer shorts, but I’ll spare you all having to see a photo of me in my boxer shorts. Consider it my gift to you.

Answer The Phone Like Buddy The Elf Day

“Hi, this is Marty the elf. What’s your favourite colour?”

That’s all. That’s literally the entire celebration. No one knows who created the day, but here it is. I waited to see if “Service Canada” would call me to say I was going to jail unless I gave them money (the most common phone scam running these days), but when it didn’t look like it was going to happen I just had Jodie call me from the next room. I answered the phone as instructed. It spread joy and good vibes.

We are looking forward to watching Elf this year. While I’m tired of most holiday movies (even Die Hard, somehow), I haven’t seen this one in a few years so it’s due. That and It’s a Wonderful Life, which I’m sure Jodie will want to watch before the season is done. And now I can feel like I’ve actually lived a small part of this movie. It’s the magic of the holidays, and it saves me from having to smother a plate of spaghetti in maple syrup.

Bake Cookies Day

While we fell short of completing any cookies on this auspicious day, we did get the process started. Our team baker (yo, Ma!) has been working overtime to ensure we are sufficiently plumped-up with sweets over the holiday season, so there was no need to add ‘baking’ to Jodie’s list of December chores this year. And that’s great – she deserves the rest, and the quality of our counter-stashed sweets has been consistently awesome.

But rather than bug our baker for more hot-kitchen toiling, we observed that we were running short on medicinal cookies (cannabis – no need to be all discreet about it, it’s fucking legal now). So yesterday we began the process of cooking a pound of butter along with an ounce of Mendo Breath, a strain known for being supremely relaxing and delightfully euphoric. After 24 hours in the slow cooker (which will elapse this evening), we will strain the contents through cheesecloth and let the butter set in the fridge. Jodie will concoct some of her brilliant ginger snaps with the butter it produces.

It only seems appropriate for 2020 to celebrate Bake Cookies Day with a recipe that will effectively disconnect us from the reality of the world. I think we could all benefit from these cookies. That said, I may or may not be sharing.

Flake Appreciation Day

I wasn’t sure about this one. It’s not about Corn Flakes or dandruff flakes or that British chocolate bar, nor is it about former senator from Arizona Jeff Flake. It’s literally about snowflakes, and since we’ve had those present in our city for nearly two months now, with the initial wow effect having long since worn off, I wasn’t sure I’d want to take the time to appreciate them. But I refuse to surrender the spirit of this project. Dammit, if the calendar wants us to learn about snowflakes, then that’s what we’ll do.

The calendar also suggested that we should be enjoying either ham salad or a roast suckling pig yesterday, but that wasn’t going to happen. So flakes it is.

In 150BC, Han Ying discussed the pentagonal symmetry of flowers vs. the hexagonal symmetry of snowflakes. In 1675 Friedrich Martens cataloged 24 types of snowflake. In 1796 the first microscope experiments were done on snowflakes. In 1832 a Japanese writer named Doi Toshitsura expanded the categorization of flakes to 86 types. He then updated that to 97 eight years later. The first photographed microscope flakes appeared in 1894, though I’m sure the public was too distracted by moving pictures at the time to care.

By 2008 we had Japanese scientists studying how snowflakes form in outer space, so we have come a long way. They say that no two snowflakes are alike, and that’s primarily because each flake will take its own weird journey from the sky to the earth, thus forming its own unique shape. But a Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht found that by growing the snowflakes under strict scientific conditions in a lab, he could create identical snowflake twins. So that adage is not true, now that science has mucked it up.

Hooray for flakes, even if they combine to lay 6-8 months of unpleasant cold upon our city. Yesterday I gave them a pass.

Underdog Day

There were a few ways of celebrating this one, and I opted for all three. First off, I watched the intro to the classic Underdog cartoon. I used to watch this from time to time when I was young, though I was never an obsessive fan.

Next, I checked out an obsessive fan of that cartoon. Underdog Lady, as she’s known to fans of the Howard Stern Show, is an acutely serious woman who always brings a lot of inadvertent laughter to the show. I won’t get into why, as it’s far too convoluted a tale to convey here, and I have no need to increase my word count. Anyway, it made me laugh.

After that it was time to take a moment to reflect upon the Cleveland Browns. I make a lot of jokes about the Browns (who have been in the playoffs only once since the mid-90s, and lost that game), but I am always rooting for them. Not only have they been strangers to the playoffs, they have regularly sucked every year. Even if they start strong, they always find a way to Browns it. This year they seem destined for the playoffs though, and they might even win a game. I remain an ardent fan, and will cheer them on this week against… oh thank god, it’s only the New York Giants.

The only other way to celebrate this would be with an actual dog, and we did that too. Liberty is our underdog in our one puppy feud: Trixie still leaps at her with rage from time to time, whenever she feels Liberty is being liked too much by us, or is standing too close to the toy she wants to chew. And every time, Liberty fights back and pins her, but never bites her. She is the bullied child who could kick the bully’s ass, but instead simply reminds the bully that it *could* happen. The best kind of underdog.

National Wear A Plunger On Your Head Day

First off, hell no.

We own exactly one toilet plunger, and while we haven’t had to use it in quite some time, it has still only ever been used to plunge toilets filled with fecal travesties. There was no way I was going to slap the thing on my head, even if the poo germs had long since died of old age. I must escape this project with at least some dignity.

So we did the next best thing, and took the photo above. It will have to count. I’m not closing out 2020 with E. Coli.

Today we begin our two-week workless journey, which ends with Abbey returning to her final semester of her undergrad degree, which will happen shortly after the termination of this weird project. Here’s what we’ve got for today:

  • National Hard Candy Day. Hard candies are great candies. I hope we can track some down today.
  • National Oatmeal Muffin Day. Nope. Our team baker has done enough this year, we’re not going to toss this on her proverbial plate.
  • National Emo Day. Looks like we’ll be taking some of the day to mope. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good mope.
  • Look For An Evergreen Day. I bet I find one. Like, in our front yard.
  • National Wreaths Across America Day. We won’t be in America today, but we do have a beautiful wreath.
  • Super Saturday. Also known as ‘Panic Saturday’, this is the last Saturday to get your Christmas shopping done, so rush to those crowded stores and breathe all over everybody!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Today we roll into our final day in which we have to balance work and celebrations. In theory, this would mean we will be celebrating all day, every day, from here through the end of the year. But we have missed out on a lot of afternoon naps over the last few months, so that will have to be factored in. Also, the calendar is offering painfully little to celebrate at the moment. No one thought to cram International Papaya Day into December, likely because people are too darn busy to celebrate random fruits right now. That means shorter articles, fewer responsibilities, and longer naps. That’s a big ol’ thumbs-up from us. Yesterday is a prime example of the dearth of ongoing celebrations this month. Here’s what we tapped into:

National Maple Syrup Day

Hah! “Here’s what we tapped into”, and it’s maple syrup. I think this mildly unpleasant wordplay should count as a proper celebration for this day. No? Do I have to consume some maple syrup? Well fine then.

The process for bringing maple syrup into the world is as simple as extracting it from a sugar maple, red maple or black maple tree. Most trees will ooze out five to fifteen gallons of the stuff in a year, so those forests of maple trees being farmed around the nation are stocking the world’s supply. I’m not exaggerating; Quebec alone is responsible for producing 70% of the world’s stash of maple syrup. It’s not just a Canadian cliché – this is truly our gift to the planet.

Indigenous people were the first to discover the magic of the maple, and in the early days of colonization, they’d occasionally swap out maple sugar or syrup for salt in European dishes. If you’re looking to start up your own maple syrup company with some fresh trees, be warned that maples have to be about 30-40 years old before they’ll give up the sticky goo.

Despite all the national pride, a number of Canadians – two of whom currently live in this house – prefer ‘corporate’ syrup on their pancakes. Jodie and Abbey will both grab the butter-flavoured Aunt Jemima, and will likely continue to lean toward that product when it eventually receives a new name. I still opt for the genuine maple because you just can’t beat that flavour.

We had pancakes on Tuesday night for dinner (my thinking ahead has really slipped as the months have scurried by), and of course I did not take a photo. Instead, I simply took a shot of maple yesterday to celebrate. It was sweet and satisfying, and hopefully will not become a habit.

Wright Brothers Day

Yesterday marked the 117th anniversary of flight, when Orville and Wilbur Wright launched their rickety little plane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, forever changing the way humans would consume tiny bags of over-salted peanuts. The only logical ways to celebrate this day would be to design, build and test our own plane, or even to venture on a plane to enjoy a relaxing vacation somewhere.

Since neither of those will be happening any time soon, our next best option would be to learn a little something about Orv and Wil. We know they owned a bike shop, but what else do we know about those guys?

As a teenager, Wilbur had his front teeth knocked out by a hockey stick. This wound up a substantial blow to his mental health, as he went from outgoing and Yale-bound to a stay-at-home recluse. Their sister, Katharine, was more outgoing than either of the brothers, and when they took their technology to Europe, she was the schmoozer who helped to show it off. She and Orville also marched for women’s suffrage in Ohio. If a bio-pic is made of these brothers, it almost sounds like Katharine should be featured just as prominently.

On September 17, 1909, Orville was demonstrating their Flyer to the US Army, when a propeller broke and they crashed. Riding along with Orville was Lt. Thomas Selfridge, who earned the dubious honour of being the first aircraft fatality. Neither brother ever married. I suppose that is the sacrifice of creating such a pivotal piece of technology. Wilbur apparently ate some bad shellfish in 1912, which led to his premature death at the age of 45. Orville sold the family company to Glenn A. Martin in 1915, creating the Wright-Martin company. This would eventually evolve to be Lockheed-Martin, which still creates planes and missiles and various other flying things.

Orville wound up hooking up with NACA, the predecessor to NASA. He served with that organization for 28 years. He passed away in 1948 after a heart attack, and it should be noted that he was quite saddened by the fact that his life’s work had been used to kill thousands upon thousands during the two wars. That’s fair, though it was inevitable.

Had the Wright Brothers not made their magic in 1903, it’s likely someone else would have claimed the honour within the ensuing few years. But that’s not what went down, and the Wrights should get their due. Happy birthday, air travel.

Write A Friend Month

Was the intent of this month to encourage us to write a letter to a friend? Perhaps. But I took it completely literally instead, because why not? I’ve written to friends numerous times throughout the year. Sometimes a celebration only needs to be as simple as its title. I’d say I’ve earned the experience to claim this snippet of wisdom.

Today at 4:30 we will embrace sweet, sweet freedom for the remainder of the year. Except for the scraps still dangling from the calendar. Here’s what’s up today:

  • Answer The Phone Like Buddy The Elf Day. Nobody ever calls me other than spammers. Maybe I’ll do this for the spammers.
  • National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. We don’t have any of these on hand, and our hopes to create one were shelved when we couldn’t go to the craft store without risking death.
  • Underdog Day. We could watch some old Underdog cartoons. Or reflect on how much we want the damn Cleveland Browns to win this year.
  • Bake Cookies Day. Again? How many cookies can we bake?
  • Flake Appreciation Day. Gotta love flakes, from snow to corn.
  • National Roast Suckling Pig Day. That’s a tall order for three people who really don’t want to eat one of these.
  • National Ham Salad Day. Let’s get freaky with ham salad!
  • National Wear A Plunger On Your Head Day. No, really. This is apparently a thing that exists.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

My introduction paragraph yesterday was a smidge on the dreary side, even for 2020. I felt spent and winded from this project, and even though yesterday I was busy enough at work to not allow me to look at publishing anything until nearly 8:00pm, I felt more energized, more eager to document my celebrations. Unfortunately, the calendar betrayed me. This time of year there aren’t nearly as many National Whatever Days, as people are already distracted from the trudgery of their lives by the upcoming year-end festivities. So we are picking the bones here, but with enthusiasm. Here’s what we tackled yesterday:

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

On January 3 it was chocolate covered cherries. Chocolate covered nuts got their day on February 25. Chocolate covered raisins? Not a big fan, but we ate some delicious ones on March 24. April 21 gave us chocolate covered cashews. Then we got a big pause on the trend until October 7th’s chocolate covered pretzels. Now we get the thrill of enjoying anything we want, covered in chocolate.

Oh, and fondue day… can’t forget that one. Chocolate fondue day was February 5. This has been a truly memorable year.

Pictured above is one of my favourite memories from the Christmases of my childhood. Our massive family gatherings always included a few essentials: shrimp cocktail before the meal, rum & cokes dispensed by my generously indulgent uncles, and these chocolate covered cherries. They also contain peanut butter, chopped dates, and possibly other things I don’t want to know about because goddammit it’s magic and it requires no further explanation. I have enjoyed chocolate covered cherries since those magnificent treats, but never this exact recipe.

Our team baker (hi, Mom!) created the magic this year. She followed my aunt’s recipe and concocted these glorious little encapsulations of my youthful love of holiday desserts. She made them just a couple days ago, so we haven’t tried them yet. Our daughter arrived on Sunday, and our team baker is keeping her distance until Christmas in order to stay safe in this weird time. But we can wait – it’s enough to know the magic is coming.

That said, she promptly told me she won’t ever make these again. Too much hassle, too much mess. That’s okay – sometimes the greatest magic is the messiest.

Stupid Toy Day

Apparently this is a day for us to reflect on the stupid toys we received as a child. The site that boasted this particular celebration also featured a few examples, not all of which I’m completely on board with calling ‘stupid’.

Mr. Potato Head is silly, but is it a stupid toy? I doubt Don Rickles would lend his voice to a stupid toy. Kids seem to be able to play with this, and they’ve been popular for decades, so no – it’s not stupid. Tamagotchis are on the list too, but our kids loved keeping those little electronic critters alive. At least, until they forgot about it for long enough to kill it. Tickle Me Elmo was kind of a stupid toy, I guess. But it was, at its heart, a stuffed Elmo toy, and kids love stuffed versions of their favourite characters, right?

Then they mention the Slinky. I had to pause on that one. My first reaction was to protest – we all had Slinkies, right? And we loved plopping them down the stairs, and… well, that was really all the fun, wasn’t it? It’s a spring. You can pop it back and forth in your hands, but the only real dynamics to the toy was watching it descend the stairs. Alone or in pairs. That’s not much of a toy, really. The Slinky may be the stupidest toy that most kids have, at one time, owned.

But my focus is on the laser pointer. This is a business device, used for corporate presentations. But it didn’t take long for people to start using them as toys, primarily for messing with their pets. While it seems our dogs are disappointingly astute at realizing the source of the magic red dot, we have had dogs in the past who fell for it every time. In fact, that’s how our bulldog, Bethany, was able to perform in a local high school production of Legally Blonde: The Musical – by her handler deploying a laser pointer to guide her through her marks.

This week a man was arrested for shining a laser pointer into Police 1, our local police helicopter. The guy could have caused a deeply disturbing accident, and I fully support his prosecution. People use these things at concerts, at sporting events, and if kids get hold of one they’ll get up to all kinds of shenanigans with it. These are stupid toys, and should only be legal to sell to corporate customers. Or people with pets, I guess. Damn.

Barbie & Barney Backlash Day

I get the backlash. I feel no rage toward either of these toy icons, but clearly Thomas and Ruth Roy did when they concocted this celebration of rage. Let’s dig a little deeper and figure out why.

We’ll start with Barbie. She was launched in March of 1959 – in fact, we even commemorated her 61st birthday with a celebration on this page. But as sweet and unassuming and dream-home-dwelling as this icon appears to be, she has not been without controversy. Her body measurements were initially 36-18-33, a look that most women could not achieve without a corset, an eating disorder, plastic surgery, or some combination of those three. Mattel has attempted to address this by introducing new body types, like ‘Curvy Barbie,’ who would be a size 4. So, you know, huge.

Barbie also suffers from a diversity problem. Her first black friend, “Colored Francie”, showed up in 1967. Apart from the problematic name, this was also simply a white Barbie’s head, sprayed darker. There was nothing else to differentiate her from regular Barbie, apart from her skin tone. Again, Mattel has tried to rectify this, and even introduced a character in a wheelchair in 1997. That was great, until a kid pointed out that her wheelchair wouldn’t fit in the elevator in Barbie’s Dream House. Oh well – all the fun’s on the first floor, right?

I never had an issue with Barbie because Abbey didn’t really play with Barbies. I think she had one that someone had given to her, but she wasn’t interested in it. Kids undoubtedly annoy their parents by pleading for all the new accessories and add-ons, but it wasn’t really an issue for me.

Then there’s the fucking dinosaur. We watched plenty of Barney when Abbey was small, though thankfully he was never her favourite. It was simplistic and repetitive, to the point where my 3 year old was bored easily by it. Some people find Barney to be the epitome of repugnant schlock, and would happily celebrate this day by burning a full-size purple dinosaur effigy on their front lawns. I guess I’m lucky once again. I’m not a fan, but his presence was a mere blip in my life as a stay-at-home parent.

Now if Thomas and Ruth Roy wish to create an anti-Caillou celebration, I will purchase a fucking flame-thrower to participate in that one. I still hear that bald prick’s shrill whine in my nightmares.

Will I face the day with the same verve and enthusiasm? Odds are I won’t, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Here’s what’s awaiting us on this Thursday:

  • National Maple Syrup Day. We had pancakes and bacon for dinner on Tuesday night, but I forgot to take a picture. Looks like I’m doing a shot of maple syrup today.
  • Wright Brothers Day. Air travel turns 117 today. Do I get it a cake? Take it out drinking?
  • Pan American Aviation Day. I have no earthly idea how I’d celebrate this, but these are literally the only three options for today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

And somehow the credits roll on another day of balancing work and celebration, with a boisterous acknowledgement that I might not be able to pull it off. We have popped over 2,000 corks this year, and we are spent. We would love to race past the finish line at full speed and with gargantuan gusto, but I think it’s enough of a win just to have made it to the end, given the weird circumstances of this year. Covid didn’t kill this project, but it wounded it and left it with an irrefutable limp. And so we limp onward, with a hot cup of whatever lands on our calendar and whatever we can manage to plunge ourselves into. Here’s what our yesterday delivered:

International Tea Day

“But wait,” the extremely attentive among you may interject, “you already celebrated this one back on May 21. I remember it like it was yesterday.” Well, first of all you’re lying. Nobody remembers that particular celebration. But you’re also correct in that we did celebrate this exact day already this year.

And so we’ll celebrate it again. International Tea Day is a United Nations construct, meant to acknowledge the importance of tea around the globe. It is, after all, the most widely consumed beverage that isn’t plain ol’ water. And it’s crucial to a number of economies, such as those in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Uganda and Tanzania. As it happens, those nations in particular have been celebrating International Tea Day on December 15 since 2005. The UN celebration in May is only a year old.

So how did we celebrate this? Did we plant some hibiscus or licorice root to use in our own tea creations? Did we forge a trade alliance with our Ugandan brothers and sisters to import their goods directly to our home? Or did we simply drink some tea? I think you all know how this day landed for us. Abbey enjoyed a chai latte. It was tasty.

Cat Herders Day

Thomas and Ruth Roy strike again. Those two crazy doofuses created more than 80 weird celebrations throughout the year, most of which we have celebrated in our travels. According to my records, we have only four more of their days to look forward to. I’m going to miss Thomas and Ruth. I should have sent them a Christmas card for their efforts.

The gist behind this one is for us to look at our jobs and compare them to the chaos that would be involved in the process of herding cats. No one actually has that responsibility in their jobs, outside of animal shelters and possibly Disneyland rat-control experts. But most of us will remember that Super Bowl commercial for Hewlett-Packard, where cowboys on horses wrangled cats to demonstrate… I don’t know, something about HP computers, probably.

My job is not nearly that frantic. I work with spreadsheets and Word documents, and tend to communicate with two or three coworkers throughout my days, that’s about all. Jodie is a junior high teacher, so she could absolutely relate to this. Teachers are the true cat-herders in our world. Now that she’s working from home I have the joy of listening to her tell her kids to quit talking, followed by her kids trying to shoehorn in one more witty rejoinder (almost always lacking in actual wit) before she tells them again. I could never do her job, and I admit that freely. It takes patience, focus, and the ability to predict where those wacky cats will leap to next.

I’ll stick with my spreadsheets.

National Wear Your Pearls Day

This day was created by author DeAnna Bookert, which begs the question: how many of these celebrations were created by motivational speakers? A surprising amount, I’ve found, but I can’t be bothered to comb through all of my old posts in order to get an accurate tally. Needless to say, this is another celebration meant for us to feel good about ourselves. Can’t argue with the perpetual need for that groove.

DeAnna believed that wearing her pearls was a way to remind herself that, no matter how much metaphorical feces was flung her way by the great monkey of life, she still has value. Those are my words, by the way. If you’re looking for poop-slinging imagery in order to spark your motivational needs, don’t look to DeAnna for that; look to me. If you’re looking for a more valuable way to feel value in yourself, maybe DeAnna is the way to go.

Jodie owns some pearl earrings, and last night she plopped them on. She doesn’t have a significant self-worth issue, but she looks great in the earrings, and the calendar insisted she wear them.

National Tie Month

I can’t stand ties. I have no desire to ever wear a tie again for the rest of my life. When my son got married, I didn’t wear a tie. I’ve been to a handful of funerals in the last decade: no tie. The only time I’ve worn a tie has been for job interviews, and that was simply to project an idealized impression of myself that I never planned to live up to. So, like everyone does in a job interview.

But, for the purposes of this project Liberty indulged. She wore a tie, if only for a few moments, and looked more dapper than I ever could have. I did not opt for wearing a proper shirt and tie as well, but the shirt part is not in the name of this celebration anyway, so I’m okay with that. If there’s a National Shirt & Tie Month… well, we would have hit it by now. It’s December. This is it. Just the tie.

Today is the beginning of the home stretch. On January 15 I celebrated being 1/24th of the way through this project, and I believe I specified that if the year was one second of film, we just finished the first frame. Well, we’ve got one frame left to tackle. Here’s our Wednesday:

  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Nice and vague. I like these when they’re nice and vague.
  • Barbie & Barney Backlash Day. After this we’ll have only three Thomas & Ruth Roy celebrations on the list.
  • Stupid Toy Day. The stupid ones are always the most fun, right?
  • Boston Tea Party Day. I assume this is commemorating the date. I had no idea all the tea was dumped in winter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Immersed in hundreds and hundreds of weird, arbitrary celebrations over the last eleven and a half months, I have been somewhat shielded from the madness of 2020. For that I’m partly grateful, and partly spiteful because I could have used that time to learn how to crochet. Or whittle. Or perhaps invent some craft that no one had thought of yet, like sponge-sculpting. Or crushed velvet origami. Velvigami. Or carefully carving intricate landscapes into slices of processed cheese. But no, we are back in the muck of perpetual celebration. Yesterday we kept it light, because to do otherwise would have countered my stated claim at the day’s opening to relax. Maybe do some online crushed velvet shopping. Here’s what we got up to:

National Monkey Day

In looking over the roster of potential Monday parties, I quickly tossed bouillabaisse day to the curb, as I had no desire to make it, and less desire to eat it. National Alabama Day was supposed to mean baking something called a Tomato Pie, but that is in the re-working stage. When it came down to it, National Monkey Day was the only day that screamed to me in a frequency I could groove to.

What can we learn about monkeys? According to one source, you can distinguish monkeys and apes from other primates because they have (a) two pectoral nipples and no more, and (b) a “pendulous” penis, which sounds like they’re bragging to me. Also, they have no whiskers. The smallest monkey is the pygmy marmoset, which tops out at 4.6 inches tall, so if you’re looking for a pet that can play with your G.I. Joes, you should track one down. Monkeys make for terrific service pets, with a career span of up to 30 years. You won’t get 30 years out of a service dog.

Monkeys beat us into space, and occasionally even returned to earth alive. Monkey brains are not just a grotesque plot device in an Indiana Jones movie – they are actually a delicacy in parts of Asia and Africa. It’s not just their brains though. Monkey meat is devoured in Africa, in Mexico, and it has been imported into America, possibly (though no one has accused them of this yet) by Jack-In-The-Box.

National Monkey Day was concocted by two Michigan State artists. They were (I’m guessing here) looking for a reason to down some drinks on December 14, and either Casey Sorrow or Eric Millikin came up with this. They began to work it into their artwork, and it has grown to be an animal rights celebration, at least in my eyes. Monkeys are fantastic, and absolutely worthy of celebration. If we weren’t overrun by a pandemic, I’d invite a bunch of them over for a  good ol’ monkey party. Unfortunately, that will have to wait until next year.

Seasonal Depression Awareness Month

Seasonal Depression? Nah, in this household we call it Seasonal Affective Disorder because the acronym SAD is too delightful not to use. Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal (who may or may not have delivered a baby, but we’ll let him continue to use the term ‘Dr.” because he has a penis) coined the term in 1984. He was experiencing this himself, and wanted to know why he felt the need to crank up the Air Supply ballads and weep into his shag carpet every year around December through February.

There are numerous reasons this condition exists. And it exists in species beyond ours. It has to do with reduced sunlight, reduced food supply, and for some, simply the fact that winter sucks ass. It’s something that drags me into the murk every year, though I feel this should be a February observance. December is the initial onset of winter, before the dirt infests the snowbanks, and when colourful lights cut through the white and make the world look aesthetically joyous.

This year I will not be investing in one of those fancy lamps to emulate the light of the sun, though it was on my wish list before the world was shaken up. I’m spending my days beside the large sunny window pictured above, so I’m hoping the experiment of perpetual sunlight throughout the winter will result in a happier outcome.

This year it will likely hit some folks harder than most years, just due to the fact that the world is soaking in chaos. Please reach out for help if you need to, buy yourself one of those lights if you think it might help, and if possible, stay close to the windows. Summer will return.

Two is enough for a Monday off. The days are oozing ever closer to the calendar’s end, and the fumes which propel us forward will have this to choose from today:

  • National Cupcake / Lemon Cupcake Day. We have so many cookies and sweet assorted foodstuffs in the house, this seems unnecessary.
  • Cat Herders Day. This is a day to ruminate over how much your chosen employment is akin to herding cats. Maybe Jodie should take this one.
  • National Wear Your Pearls Day. I don’t have any, but I could hang a Janis Joplin album around my neck. Close enough?
  • International Tea Day. This one we will handle.
  • Zamenhof Day. We already celebrated Esperanto once this year, which was far more than I feel was necessary.

Monday, December 14, 2020

As I begin my final work-week of 2020, I am gifted with the wondrous realization that this happens to be my every-fourth-Monday off so I can sleep in and pour all of my energies into crafting my meticulous words in the day’s celebration log. Or maybe an afternoon nap is in order instead. That sounds more on-brand for me, and certainly jives with the scraggly shell of a human we have all become after nearly eleven and a half months of weirdness. Given that I have the last two weeks of the year off as well, this means I will not have to face another Monday workday until January. I’m good with that. Abbey came home yesterday, and that was probably the high point of the day. I say “probably” because of course we had all this to look forward to:

National Cocoa Day

National Hot Chocolate Day landed on January 31, and it should surprise no one at this point that we absolutely celebrated the hell out of it. I understand that ‘cocoa’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘hot cocoa’, and that we could effectively celebrate this one by simply eating anything containing chocolate, but where’s the fun in that? When you hear the word, don’t you automatically think of a toasty beverage that tastes oh-so-good with Bailey’s or – for the younger crowd – after coming in from a long session of tobogganing?

We didn’t go tobogganing yesterday (there is no National Day for this – someone should remedy that), nor did we spend any time outside, apart from the airport trip to get our kid. But the weather hovered underneath the -15 mark, and that means it’s always advisable to enjoy as many cozy beverages as humanly possible. We had some great cocoa while watching football. What could be better?

And there’s no need to delve deep into the history of hot cocoa, as we have already covered chocolate’s use as a beverage throughout history several times this year. I think it was enough that we spent a delightful few moments of yesterday enjoying one of the greatest – if not the greatest – winter beverages humankind has ever produced.

National Ice Cream Day

Yes, this makes perfect sense. Drop a day for frozen treats onto a day that has a better than average chance of being sub-Arctic outside. My ire should be put on hold though; I’m thinking in a very north-centric way. Down in Australia I’m sure they are thrilled to grab a cone of their favourite ice cream (possibly bloomin’ onion flavour?) and enjoy it. I sincerely hope the Aussies are having a better summer than last year – remember when the entire country was on fire? That seems like a decade ago but it was just last summer.

So as much as we were not eager to dive into some ice cream on one of the coldest days of this winter so far, we indulged. Well, I did. Jodie was more interested in the hot cocoa, and for that I cannot fault her. But hey, she looks great holding the product. We go with our strengths.

It wasn’t anything fancy, and I sincerely hope this is the last frozen treats day of the year. Given that we are just over two weeks away from our grand finale, I suspect that’s likely. But this calendar has a way of throwing surprises at me. Weird, cold surprises.

Worldwide Candle Lighting Day

My first thought was how conveniently this particular celebration of candles happened to land right in the middle of Hanukkah, when we’re lighting candles every night anyway. But this is not a day to pay tribute to the wax and tallow brighteners of our nights, nor does it have anything to do with miraculous oil keeping the Maccabees at bay. This is actually a rather sombre event.

Worldwide Candle Lighting Day is when we spark up a candle at 7:00pm local time in order to pay tribute to the children who have passed away too soon. It started on the internet, but way back in 1997. It’s a time for families to gather and quietly remember those who have passed. The young ones in particular.

We have been immensely fortunate to have raised two kids beyond the realm of kid-dom without any major health complications. We have good friends who have lost children though, either before childbirth, in childbirth and after. We made sure to time our menorah lighting correctly yesterday, and we had a moment of genuine silence to reflect upon those lost souls.

National Violin Day

The violin may be the most ubiquitous non-percussion instrument on the planet. It shows up everywhere, from European folk music to grandiose classical and opera, to country and bluegrass, to rock ‘n roll. You might chance upon some electric violin if you’re either listening to some edgy fusion-rock or watching a Yahoo Serious movie. Younger folks may need to ask their parents who Yahoo Serious was, and most parents would probably have to look at Wikipedia because they don’t know either.

The Arabic rebab is the great ancestor to the violin, and every violin-ish instrument out there. It was a bowed device with a tiny round body and a limited number of strings, and it can be dated back to at least the 8th century. The violin came to be one of the dominant instruments in all of Europe, functioning as a street performing instrument or as a way to serenade royalty.

I never had much interest in the violin. Abbey, however, took lessons for a few months. From what I can recall, she hated it. She never felt comfortable holding it, and couldn’t get more than a note or two to sound remotely like how she wanted. She swapped it out for piano lessons after a quick run, and thankfully we had only rented the instrument so we weren’t out a bundle of cash.

It is a powerful instrument though. And there are a few violinists whose work I quite enjoy, though I don’t crank them up as often as I should. Stéphane Grappelli used to accompany Django Reinhardt, and the two of them made some amazing jazz together in the 1930s. Itzhak Perlman’s work will either move your soul or else your soul is frozen and/or dead and cannot be moved by anything. Jean-Luc Ponty’s style of eclectic jazz violin is simply outstanding. Take a listen to his work with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, or on Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats album. He’s also featured on Elton John’s Honky Chateau LP.

Yesterday I took some time and listened to some exquisite violin. It seemed like the right thing to do.

We have so few days left. Do we have the energy to get through them all? That depends on when you ask. For now, here’s what we’re looking at for Monday:

  • National Bouillabaisse Day. This is a tremendous amount of work, and expensive as hell to make. So no, we won’t be doing this one.
  • National Alabama Day. A day to pay tribute to a state I have very little interest in visiting.
  • National Free Shipping Day. I wonder if any of the major shipping companies will be celebrating this one.
  • National Monkey Day. Another day to learn some interesting facts about another very interesting animal.
  • Roast Chestnuts Day. Maybe. I doubt we have any chestnuts on hand.
  • Green Monday. This used to serve as a warning flag that Christmas was coming and that you’d better order online soon or else it will be too late. This was conceived before Amazon’s standard one or two day shipping.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Yesterday I did battle with the setting sun. With a wealth of tasks I needed to complete, including numerous celebrations and writing about them, the day slithered away from me in a rush. There was a bed to make, presents to wrap, a garage to tidy. I needed to stretch my writing frantically across two articles so that I could spend most of today either relaxing and watching football or picking up our daughter from the airport. There was little time to waste on a lengthy introductory paragraph, yet here I am, swimming right through the middle of one. Alas, the shore awaits me, as does a hearty list of goings-on for our Saturday. Here’s what we tackled:

Bonza Bottler Day

Just a recap for those who may have forgotten what this day was about. Back in 1985 a woman named Elaine Fremont felt we were lacking in special occasions to celebrate. This was before the internet opened up and showed us how many gazillions of celebrations are scattered about our calendar, most of them for this very reason. She lived in South Carolina, but somehow got the word out that she was looking for a name for her monthly celebrations, which were to take place every month when the month number and day number matched up.

A student in Australia came up with the winning idea: Bonza Bottler Day. Bonza is apparently something Aussies yell out to refer to something that is fantastic or top-notch. I don’t recall the word popping up in Crocodile Dundee or any of the popular Men At Work hits, so I’ll take this student’s word for it. My research into Australian culture and catchphrases is tragically shallow.

So the celebration simply involves cracking open a bottle of something special, something you wouldn’t normally drink, and enjoying it. We have not skipped any of these, sampling new sodas and beers with curiosity and (usually) appreciation. Yesterday it was 12/12, so we grabbed a couple bottles of Stewart’s Black Cherry soda and enjoyed them after dinner. Not a huge event, but I’ve enjoyed this little monthly ritual. Who knows? It might even carry into 2021, though I suspect I’ll skip January 1. The only repeat celebration I’ll be doing on that day is National Hangover Day.

Gingerbread House Day

The history of moulding gingerbread (or some sort of sweet bread) into a house shape goes back a lot further than I’d expected. You can find some stories from ancient Rome about this, but the most interesting to me is the story of the fourth wiseman. Apparently there was another dude who was too sick to make it to the big Jesus party. A rabbi took care of him, and told him about the prophecy of Jesus’s arrival in Bethlehem (which means “house of bread” in Hebrew – go figure). He then told the wiseguy – sorry, wiseman how he gets his students to build houses of bread to “nourish their hope” for the messiah dropping by.

As luck would have it, the gift that particular magnus (singular for magi) was hauling to the birth spot was ginger root. He gave it to the rabbi and encouraged his kids wo work it into their bread for a little extra flavour. So is the Christmas gingerbread house truly a derivation of a rabbi’s tradition? That all depends on how much you believe from those old stories.

We stopped short of building our own gingerbread house yesterday (see our intro paragraph for our flimsy excuse). But we happened upon a contest at our local Safeway. I snapped a few pics and I voted for my favourite. I enjoyed the one built out of pretzels – I don’t know if pretzel and gingerbread go well together, but they really gave it a quality, rustic appearance. And congrats to me for controlling myself and not taste-testing any of them. I have grown so much.

Festival of Unmentionable Thoughts

This, like the festival for dead whales’ souls we celebrated earlier this week, has no definitive origin, and may or may not have actually been celebrated by a single soul on this planet.

Until now.

The couple of websites that mention this offer no conclusive way to celebrate it. Do we just blurt out the thoughts we should not mention? Do we keep them to ourselves and sit quietly while thinking them? Do we write them down in an article that will be uploaded on a website that is visited by tens of people every month, like this one? No, that doesn’t seem smart. I have shared a lot of our lives and a lot of ourselves on this page, but believe me – y’all don’t want to know my unmentionable thoughts.

We all have them. You see someone kneeling down near a staircase and know you could launch them down those stairs with one well-placed boot. You grumble about that neighbour you don’t care for, and think how easy it would be to tuck a properly-sized turd up inside his car door handle so that his fingers sink into it when he tries to open the door. Maybe you’re in a grocery store and you see some un-masked dolt manhandling all the fruits and vegetables then putting them back, or see an idiot neighbour child take a bite of something then put it back under his mother’s watch – would anyone blame you for cramming a dragonfruit in their faces to muffle their screams?

Well, today is the day to accept that we have all had thoughts of this nature. They aren’t thoughts we’d follow through on, or even applaud if some stranger did it (except maybe for that neighbour kid – that actually happened, and this is the same kid who once threw rocks at my dogs). But we need to appreciate their presence in our fickle mind-machines, and not scold ourselves for the fact that they have danced upon our stage.

Feel free to share your unmentionable thoughts in the comments section. Or don’t – they shouldn’t really be mentioned, I suppose. Otherwise they’d be ‘mentionable’ thoughts, and those don’t get their own festival.

National Ding-A-Ling Day

The purpose of this day is to reconnect with people you haven’t spoken to in a while. The notion of ‘ding-a-ling’ referring, of course, to the sound a phone makes when it rings, at least inside the head of whomever concocted this bizarrely-monikered celebration. Did people used to say, “Give me a ding-a-ling tomorrow!”? Was that ever a thing?

I have, like so many folks who have been thrust even deeper into an already isolationist lifestyle choice this year, grown weary about talking on the phone. Last Saturday I connected with one of the greatest friends I have ever known. He moved down to Calgary ages ago, and we have only spoken sporadically online since then, but last week we went over two hours in sparkling phone conversation, just like the old days. Minus the marijuana and constantly-cranked Lenny Kravitz, anyhow. It was wonderful.

To add to the celebration, I also reached out to a couple of folks on Facebook who are on my friends list, but with whom I seldom if ever converse. We have had a few days like this throughout the year, but I always enjoy them.

But let’s talk about that song. “My Ding-A-Ling” was Chuck Berry’s only number one hit, and that’s a piece of trivia that never fails to astound me. It was a novelty song, written in the 50s by Louisiana legend Dave Bartholomew. How it managed to become a hit, when all it contains are lyrics that refer to bells, but which could easily be mistaken for Chuck singing about his penis, is one of the weirdest flukes of rock history. Apparently Boston DJ Jim Connors was the driving force in getting this song spread around the country. Why? I have no idea. But for a short while in 1972, everyone seemed to embrace this double-entendre.

This world is fucking weird.

Today our daughter Abbey rejoins us. She was here to film us diving into a wading pool on January 1, and she’ll be here to throw bread at the wall with us when the year comes to a close. Here’s what we have on tap:

  • National Cocoa Day. We could enjoy chocolate of any variety, but the hot liquid kind is probably best with the forecast high of -16.
  • National Violin Day. I guess I’ll listen to some violin music.
  • National Day of the Horse. Riding an actual horse was a consideration, before the virus. And let’s face it, the weather.
  • Pick A Pathologist Pal Day. From what I’ve read on Facebook lately, it’s easy to be a doctor. Just say words, and call it your professional medical opinion.
  • National Ice Cream Day. Why the hell???
  • Worldwide Candle-Lighting Day. The fact that this happened to land in the middle of Hanukkah makes it an absolutely joyous coincidence.