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Commercial origins of “National Days” and holidays

President Ronald Reagan declared July 1984 “National Ice Cream Month” and more specifically July 15, 1984, National Ice Cream Day. He was looking for a way to help the dairy industry, and at the time he was already trying to get rid of 500 million pounds of cheese.

James Hamblin pointed out in The Atlantic: “In the years since sales of ice cream have spiked on this day. Dippin’ Dots, Cold Stone Creamery, and Baskin-Robbins ran promotions and in-store giveaways on National Ice Cream Day 2019, as did PetSmart and Williams Sonoma. Halo Top gave out vouchers in a promotional collaboration with Bumble. Yes, some Americans are likely now using a dating app because Ronald Reagan had too much cheese.”

Not all “National Days” and holidays have such an official origin story.

That’s understandable, given how difficult it is to get a Presidential Proclamation and a Senate Resolution. It’s also not a surprise that the industries noticed the impact on their sales on those special days that got the honor of being designated as “National”.

As a result, very few “National Days” are “official”. If fact, more of them have commercial origins than you would think.

Michael Kleinman created National Underwear Day in 2003, so he could differentiate his company, Freshpair, from the competition. Kleinman told Racked he did a couple dozen radio interviews on the first National Underwear Day because “people kept calling.” The next year, CNN covered the made-up holiday. In 2005, Fresh Pair held an underwear runway show right in the middle of Times Square; in 2008, the event moved indoors and attracted guests like Tyson Beckford, Lydia Hearst, Russell Simmons, and some Real Housewives.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the king of rotisserie chicken sales, Boston Market, invented the National Rotisserie Chicken Day. They submitted their proposal in April 2015 to National Day Calendar, one of the main unofficial bodies that reviews new “holiday” requests from brands and companies, and received approval in May of the same year.

The fast food restaurant Jack-in-the-Box created National Drive-Thru Day in 2002, according to the company. It was originally set on July 28 but is now observed regularly on July 24.

That move makes sense if you consider that 37% of American adults consumed fast food on any given day between 2013 and 2016, according to the CDC.

Then there’s Cyber Monday – a brainchild of the National Retail Federation. Which rides on the coat-tails of a more organic in its origin Black Friday.

When I was doing research for this post (I wanted to see how many holidays were created by companies to improve their bottom line), the google search for commercial holidays returned all kinds of articles advising brands/retailers and companies on how to monetize the holidays. And boy, do they lean into that advice.

But that’s a matter for a whole new post.

Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about where the “National Days” and holidays come from.

It’s because I want to raise awareness about the purpose of those events.

I became much more conscious of the manipulation I’m exposed to as more and more media covers each of those “holidays”. As a result, I’m less likely to go out for milkshakes to celebrate the National Milkshake Day (September 12, in case you’re wondering) when I know the day itself was designed to get me to spend money.

Do I really need a special day to appreciate my houseplants (January 10)? Or is the fake holiday just a ploy to get me to buy another plant?

Do we need a particular day to celebrate kittens? I can adore them all year round, not only on July 10.

Or, if we really want to celebrate something ridiculous on a specific day, we can do it without spending money on random things we don’t really need.

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