Growing up, each year was marked by a cyclical predictability that gave me a sense of connection to life.
The first day of each New Year always began the same way: Watching the Rose Parade in our pajamas and having football games on throughout the day.
From there a brief detour to see if the groundhog saw his shadow before exchanging valentines with our classmates.
By and by, it was time to don green as a safeguard against pinching. Then came egg coloring and egg hunts.
May meant making mom breakfast in bed. Summer began with buying dad a coffee mug, and then peaked with fireworks.
Going back to school was a bummer but at least we had trick-or-treating to look forward to.
When we were sick of fun-sized Snickers, the annual airing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” was quickly approaching and the smell of turkey overwhelmed the house.
December was the grand finale with everything from my birthday to hot chocolate and gingerbread houses, singing in the school concert, lights, and presents.
We concluded the year counting backwards as we watched the ball drop in Times Square.
If you were a Jewish kid like me, add in the four questions, the blowing of the shofar, dipping apples in honey, lighting the menorah, and eating hamantashan. If you were Catholic like my husband than fill in the blanks with ash on your forehead, giving up something for Lent, a Sunrise Service and a Midnight Mass.
The top billed observances were followed up by the second-tier acts such as Red Ribbon Week and Fire Prevention Week. These were school diversions more than holidays, and didn’t warrant a Hallmark card or end=cap displays at grocery stores. Though none of us declined the free coloring book from the fire department or red elastic bracelet printed with the message, “Just Say No.”
Somewhere between Hands Across America in 1986, and Read Across America in 1998, we began to lose control. Rather than days or even weeks, declarations that we must be aware of important things for an entire month became all the rage. The real importance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Domestic Abuse Awareness Month became diluted by Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month and National Toilet Tank Repair Month. These are real – go ahead, Google them.
March is National Peanut Butter Month, not to be confused with National Peanut Butter Lovers Month in November. And not to be confused further by National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day on April 2.
I’m sure there’s been more than one embarrassing occasion on record where somebody accidentally mistook National Soft Pretzel Month in July for National Pretzel Month, which is not until October.
While there are so many things we need to be more aware of such as diseases, poverty and homelessness, is there not an argument that other things do not warrant such campaigns? Is there really an acute need for more awareness of lasagna? July is Lasagna Awareness Month. I am quite aware of lasagna, but just in case I missed something, I took the Lasagna Quiz online and must confess, I scored a less-than-perfect 80%.
Try to imagine a world where our year was defined by these types of annual campaigns. It would go something like this:
Oh boy it’s a new year, and that can only mean one thing – January, and National Oatmeal Month! And no sooner will we be taking down our Quaker Oats Man decorations than February will be here. Luckily the dead of winter is brightened by Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month. Once the shopping carts are accounted for, we will begin to ask each other the question that is on all of our minds, “What shoes will you be wearing for Foot Health Month in March? …
And so on and so on until we can no longer put it off: Procrastination Awareness Month in December.
Is this all nonsense? Many argue what ails society today is a lack of connection to a deep and rich cultural heritage tied to meaningful traditions. By meaningful traditions, I am not referring to waiting 45 minutes to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall. We’ve sold out. Perhaps we are going you know where in a handbasket like so many suggest. As long as it’s during Hand Basket Awareness Month then no one can claim ignorance.