Have you ever wondered where those national holidays you often see trending on social media come from? Who actually gets to decide what date National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day falls on?
Well, as you can imagine, these are not official holidays in any legislative sense. Many of us will still have to go to work in the morning, whether it’s National Kazoo Day or not. So, what becomes a nationally recognized “Day” is really up to public opinion.
The outlet most successful in driving that public opinion? The National Day Calendar.
Started in 2013 with a goal of tracking and recording these popular holidays, the organization has since cataloged over 1,500 holidays (many of the dates listed on the site have four or more designations) while regularly accepting submissions for new days to be added.
Since the company recognizes everything from Lumpy Rug Day (May 3) to Sneak Some Zucchini into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day (August 8), you'd probably assume that April 20, commonly celebrated as “Cannabis Day,” would be a given. However, on their official website, The National Day Calendar lists only the following holidays under April 20th:
So pineapple upside down cake gets a shout out, but 4/20 - the day when cannabis consumers around the world celebrate their favorite plant - is overlooked.
Not to suggest that the calendar holds any particular social or legislative weight, but what it does do is serve as a litmus test of what is commonly celebrated by mainstream culture.
When asked why “Cannabis Day” isn’t included among these celebrations, Alice Anderson of National Day Calendar was quick to suggest that April 20’s connection with cannabis is a misconception.
“That’s not what the day is actually about,” she told Civilized. “It’s not national cannabis day. It’s National Weed Day. As in weeds from a garden. That’s how it started.”
By most indications, this is untrue. In fact, the most credible theory for how the day began was from “The Waldos,” a group of teenagers who used “4:20” as a codeword for smoking cannabis back in the 1970s. One of these teens had a connection with psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead, who then spread the term amongst their “Deadhead” followers before the term was adopted and popularized by High Times Magazine. The idea that 4/20 was born out of a day celebrating garden weeds is a familiar, though incorrect, explanation that also goes unrecognized on their calendar as well. National Weed Appreciation Day actually falls on March 28, according to Anderson's group.
According to Anderson, what days earn a specific designation is entirely up to a committee of four people the calendar has hired to sift through their estimated 10,000 annual submissions, and select “around 25.”
The Selection Process
When it comes to their selection process, Anderson said they look for days that have “broad appeal.”
"We obviously never approve anything that is overly political or controversial. We generally try to stay away from topics that aren’t family friendly.”
But her group's calendar doesn't always live up to that mandate. It includes 39 national days that honor either an alcoholic beverage or drinking activities, even though alcohol is much more hazardous to your health than cannabis. Yet there is at least one liquor-related day per month in the calendar, including National Hangover Day (Jan 1) and New Beer's Eve (April 7), which definitely aren't holidays for the whole family.
On top of that, there are overtly political days such as Pro-Life Cupcake Day (Oct 9) as well as National Lame Duck Day (Feb 6). And there's even National Bootlegger's Day (Jan 17), which reflects on the utter failure of alcohol prohibition in America - the disastrous older brother of cannabis prohibition.
To explain these outliers, Anderson said that many of the days listed on their calendar were already generally established prior to their own selection process began and were gathered during their research.
“While we might like to eliminate some of the days that don’t conform to our standard, to take them off isn’t really right either, because they exist,” she said.
That may be the case in some instances, but it's hard to believe that something as obscure as National Anisette Day (July 2) is more firmly entrenched in the American psyche than 4/20.
Could 4/20 Still Happen?
There is no National Cannabis Day scheduled in the calendar for 4/20 this year, but that doesn't mean there's no hope of seeing it there in the near future.
“As times change, what’s relevant changes,” Anderson said, adding that the company’s position is not to automatically dismiss applications related to cannabis or anything else. After all, there is a National CBD Day (Aug 8), so clearly her group isn't entirely opposed to everything involving cannabis.
But in order to be enshrined in the calendar, cannabis aficionados need to make a compelling case for the calendar's selection group.
“What it comes down to is, what’s the story? A good story goes a long way towards getting your day approved.”
The story of cannabis is still very much being written, so hopefully we'll see 4/20 recognized as it should be in a future chapter.